One day after a circuit court judge invalidated the petition
form to end race-conscious public policies, another judge ruled in
favor of the initiative on Friday.

The rulings were not necessarily contradictory and most say they
were unrelated.

Judge Susan Borman of Wayne County denied a motion to halt the
Michigan Civil Rights Initiative petition drive Friday. The motion
was filed by Milton Henry and Godfrey Dillard, attorneys who
represented the University in last year’s admissions
lawsuits. They argued that the initiative conflicts with the U.S.
Supreme Court Grutter v. Bollinger decision upholding the use of
race in admissions.

The judge ruled that the court cannot halt a petition drive
before it becomes a law and that the process “goes to the
root of our democratic principles.”

MCRI seeks to amend the state constitution to ban what it calls
“preferences based on race, ethnicity, gender.” If it
obtains 317,757 signatures by July 6, state residents will vote on
the issue in the November election.

In response to the ruling, state Rep. Leon Drolet (R-Clinton
Twp.), an MCRI supporter, said, “I’m happy that we
still have some judges that support democracy and support the rule
of law.”

While Borman ruled that on substantive grounds, the courts
cannot stop the petition drive at this stage in the campaign, Judge
Paula Manderfield of Ingham County ruled Thursday that on technical
grounds, the initiative’s petition form may be invalid.

The State Board of Canvassers, she ruled, should not have
approved the MCRI petition form in December because it fails to say
the article of the constitution it may “alter or
abrogate.” The judge ruled the missing information may leave
petition signers ill-informed that the constitution already
guarantees equal protection under the law.

Thursday’s lawsuit was filed by BAMN, among other
organizations. Both BAMN and Citizens for a United Michigan contend
that Manderfield’s decision significantly hampers
MCRI’s campaign, because they will have to redo the form in
order to validate the thousands of signatures they need. This would
mean MCRI must start over, losing two months of campaigning.

MCRI is awaiting an appeal on Manderfield’s ruling but
will continue to use the same form. The group has urged its
circulators to continue collecting signatures and asserts that the
ruling “is not a really big setback,” Drolet said.

In the past, similar initiatives propagated by University of
California Regent Ward Connerly have seen numerous legal
challenges. The initiative in California faced 12 lawsuits, Drolet
said, but made it onto the ballot and passed. “We expect to
win,” he said.

While MCRI officials believe the ruling will not deter the
initiative, United Michigan spokesman David Waymire said he
encourages MCRI to continue petitioning. “What it means is
that, come July, (the petitions will) all be thrown out,” he
said. “They’ve been given an opportunity to follow the
law, and they are electing not to.”

Manderfield ruled that the canvassing board, which originally
approved MCRI’s petition, was incorrect in its decision.
Because the ruling invalidates the board’s approval, it is up
to its lawyer, the state attorney general, to appeal. Attorney
General Mike Cox has not decided whether to appeal the
decision.

In her ruling, Manderfield reasoned that the job of assessing a
petition to amend the constitution required an examination of the
existing constitution and was not outside the board’s
purview. MCRI officials disagree with this assessment, saying the
board is not required to adjudicate on the matters outlined in
Manderfield’s ruling.

Drolet said that Manderfield’s ruling requires board
members to evaluate constitutional law even though none are
constitutional lawyers. MCRI also argues they were not required to
seek the board’s approval in December.

But while opponents say this ruling vindicates their opinion
that MCRI’s petition is deliberately deceitful, Drolet said
Manderfield’s opinion misconstrues MCRI’s desire to
racial preferences.

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