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Mich. right-to-work challenge may proceed

April 4, 2013 at 10:38 AM   |   Comments

LANSING, Mich., April 4 (UPI) -- A Michigan county judge ruled a challenge to the state's right-to-work laws may proceed but warned each side it would need stronger evidence to prove its case.

Ingham County Judge William Collette said Wednesday the coalition of labor unions, Democratic lawmakers and others presented enough evidence that it can proceed with its effort to invalidate the laws by arguing open meetings laws were violated, the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal reported Thursday.

Attorneys for the unions and the state will meet next week to set a hearing schedule.

The Journal said Collette could take up to a month to rule on whether there was any open-meeting violation when the Capitol was closed for about five hours Dec. 6 as the Republican-led Legislature considered right-to-work measures amid a large protest.

Collette indicated Wednesday the coalition and the Attorney General's Office may need to boost their arguments if either side expects a favorable ruling.

Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette asked Collette to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that no open meeting laws were violated because people inside the Capitol were allowed to remain and those outside could follow the proceedings via television and online broadcasts. He also said only one bill was considered when the Capitol was closed, and it didn't become law. After the Capitol reopened, the Senate approved the two other right-to-work bills that were signed into law.

"I don't know if you have a good case," Collette told attorneys representing the coalition. "You have a real uphill battle, but there are some haystacks on fire around the field."

One issue could be that staff for Republican lawmakers reportedly were ordered to take up seats in the House public gallery, which Collette said appeared to be "a concerted effort" by GOP leadership to prevent the public from observing initial action on right-to-work.

Both sides expressed confidence of prevailing.

"We're confident in our case and expect the [right-to-work] law to stand," Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout told the Journal.

"We know how to tie our horses to the case and get this thing done," said Michael Pitt, a cooperating attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. "The State Police are going to have to explain themselves why they closed those doors when there was no reason to do so."

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