Though the first iteration of the controversial Ann Arbor deer cull ended early March, two lawsuits about the cull remain active.
Discussion about both suits filed by the anti-cull group Ann Arbor residents for Public Safety, one in federal court and one in the Michigan Court of Claims, was renewed this week when anti-cull residents appeared at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Both lawsuits charge that the respective entities within the court’s jurisdiction — the city, state or federal government — proceeded with the cull illegally
At Monday’s meeting, City Attorney Stephen Postema said the final ruling from Federal Judge Arthur Tarnow on the case in federal court is expected soon. He also briefed Council on the state case, filed in February.
According to court records, the city, state and federal defendants in the federal case all filed motions with the U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan to dismiss the case between Jan. 29 and Feb. 10, on the basis that no laws were being violated by the cull and the plaintiffs lacked standing to proceed. The presiding judge ordered the plaintiffs to file a response to these motions by Tuesday, but the records do not show any such response by the plaintiffs being filed.
In January, Tarnow rejected a claim from the Ann Arbor Residents for Public Safety for a temporary restraining order on the cull, saying the plaintiffs failed to prove there would be immediate and irreversible harm if the cull was not stopped before a final ruling on the suit.
State court records show the plaintiffs also requested an emergency restraining order to immediately halt the cull in the case filed with the Michigan Court of Claims, which was denied on Feb. 18.
In a March interview, Barry Powers — the attorney representing the plaintiffs in both these cases — said the second lawsuit specifically targets the state by charging that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources illegally overstepped state laws regarding urban culling and ceded power to the city government.
“We’re arguing that the state, by ceding this power to this municipality, is not doing what it’s supposed to do … and now you have the city of Ann Arbor calling the shots,” Powers said. “If the hunting laws are not good enough to control (the deer population) through extending the open season and increasing the bag limit of deer during the hunting season, then you need a specific ad-hoc approach to it and you need state laws to cover it.”
Powers said the immediate goal of the new suit is to halt all subsequent iterations of the Ann Arbor cull, but his ultimate goal is to force consistent rule of law regarding wildlife management across the state.
“Deer are a problem all over, you can’t do one thing in Jackson, another thing in Ann Arbor, another thing in Dearborn and another in Warren,” Powers said. “You can’t just say the DNR has the authority to do whatever they want with wildlife, otherwise somebody can take a bazooka in downtown Detroit on Woodward Avenue to shoot at turtles … there has to be limits.”