Snap Judgments: Consent Lawsuits Go Nowhere Fast

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What’s the big deal? If judges are going to dismiss legal challenges to the consent agreement so easily, why all the fuss?

Krystal Crittendon tried it. Then she tried it again—that is, filing a lawsuit deeming Detroit’s Financial Stability Agreement void according to her interpretation of the city charter due to some disputed revenue sharing dollars and unpaid bills.

Both times, an Ingham County judge tossed Crtittendon’s lawsuit without a blink.

But it was too late: at that point city’s top attorney’s legal argument had raised such a ruckus from the state and supporters of the agreement, that city bond ratings dipped along with other financial speculations, driving the city further into a financial hurricane.

With all that mess, it seemed like the Corporation Counsel’s lawsuit actually carried some water. Or, at very least, enough for a judge to consider it and not toss it out with the same knee-jerk revulsion reserved for rotten tomatoes.

Then three local AFSCME union leaders tried it. Detroiters Rose Roots, Yolanda King and Yvonne Ross filed a lawsuit making the same argument as Crittendon: the consent agreement is void per the City Charter due to debts the state owes the City.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Amy Hathaway swiftly ruled that the City had no proof that the State owed it any money, and that revenue sharing dollars that are not shared do not count as debts.

The Detroit Free Press Reports: 

“‘The revenue-sharing money … is not a debt, and we all know it’s not a debt because corporation counsel issued an opinion to that effect back in 2006,’ Hathaway said, referring to an opinion by a former top city attorney in the administration of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.”

While the city charter has been revised since the Kilpatrick days, this ruling puts forth a solid reason not to appeal, or makes the chance of any appeal unlikely to succeed.

Crittendon still has time to appeal as well as the three AFSCME musketeers. But it would be silly to let these lawsuits send the city and it’s fragile finances into another tailspin. To supporters of the consent agreement: Don’t buy the hype and everything will be fine.

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