Pre-Trial Actions: Bankruptcy judge asked to halt water shut offs

Pre-Trial Actions: Bankruptcy judge asked to halt water shut offs

UPDATE: Late Tuesday Judge Steven Rhodes issued an order related to this issue. He sent the parties in the dispute to mediation and said he would rule on the request for a temporary restraining order on Sept. 17.

From Sept. 2: Prior to the start of the bankruptcy trial today, attorney Alice Jennings argued for a temporary restraining order on water shut offs in the city..

“Not only is it a potential immediate threat to those who don’t have water, but because of the possibility of a pandemic medical condition that could sweep through the city, it could affect any and all of us,” Jennings said. “You need water to survive, to live, to thrive and to clean our homes. The first thing that goes when the wager is cut off is sanitation, the ability to not be able to flush a toilet, your Honor, causes severe sanitation issues.”

Jennings said it is a myth that people are choosing not to pay their bills, and she said the city should halt prosecutions of residents who re-attach their water services without paying bills because often it is landlords who are doing that.

Jennings is the founder of the Detroit firm Edwards & Jennings, which specializes in civil rights and employment law. The ACLU of Michigan and NAACP Legal Defense Fund are serving as expert consultants in the water shutoffs case, and the National Action Network, People’s Water Board, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Moratorium Now are supporting the request to stop shut offs. The National Lawyers Guild and Sugar Law Center also have local attorneys representing plaintiffs in the case.

Arguing for the city, Miller Canfield attorney Tim Fusco told Judge Steven Rhodes he would be issuing the “most far-reaching order” ever made in a municipal bankruptcy case related to city services if he granted the request for a temporary restraining order. “This court would be issuing an injunction prohibiting the enforcement of local law,” he said.

At an earlier hearing in the bankruptcy case, Judge Rhodes said he’s “reasonably sure (the issue of water shut offs is) probably not within my jurisdiction.” Today he said he would wait for more court filings before deciding when — or if — he would hold another hearing on this issue.

8.23.14 TRO Request