Judge rules lawsuit challenging right-to-work law can go forward

Attorney General Bill Schuette claims that state police shut down access to the Capitol on Dec. 6 to protect public safety as the Legislature was deliberating on right-to-work legislation. Here is a shot from inside the "overcrowded" Capitol on Dec. 6, as citizens were left outside in the cold.

A lawsuit challenging Michigan’s so-called “right-to-work” law because it was passed in violation of state and federal open government laws can go on as scheduled, an Ingham County Circuit judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge William Collette ruled against Attorney General Bill Schuette’s motion to dismiss the case, which was filed by the Michigan Education Association, the ACLU of Michigan, and a coalition of other labor unions and citizen watchdogs.

MEA and others contend that Michigan lawmakers violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act, the state Constitution and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when citizens were refused entrance to the Capitol as the Legislature took up right-to-work legislation in December.

“By allowing state police to block citizens from entering the Capitol, Lansing politicians not only violated the basic American principles of open and transparent government, they also violated specific state and federal laws designed to protect the rights of citizens,” MEA President Steven Cook said when the lawsuit was filed. “We’re confident the courts will agree that the Legislature’s actions on the afternoon of Dec. 6 constituted a clear violation of the Open Meetings Act and should be invalidated."

The Capitol was shut down for about four hours as the Legislature debated the right-to-work measure. The law took effect last week.

Supporters of the lawsuit asked Collette to move the case forward, with the ACLU’s Kary Moss telling MLive on Monday, “There was both a technical and a spiritual violation of this important law that requires there to be a significant amount of transparency in the government decision making process. Michigan citizens were deprived.”

The Michigan Open Meetings Act requires that “[a]ll decisions of a public body shall be made at a meeting open to the public.” It also states that a “decision made by a public body may be invalidated if the public body has not complied” with the act.