Amicus Brief

Joseph Rivet v City of Bay City

Case Year: 2012
Case Forum: Michigan Court of Appeals
Keywords: ballot proposal, initiative petition, forced sale, home rule, writ of mandamus, plain meaning, Michigan Constitution
Amicus Counsel:

Michael J. Hodge | Scott R. Eldridge | Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C. | 120 N. Washington Square Suite 900 – One Michigan Avenue Building |Lansing, MI 48933


Petitioners proposed, through an initiative petition, a ballot question that would require Bay City to sell its water and sewer utility systems to an “authority” for one dollar. First, amicus counsel argues that Petitioners are essentially requesting a writ of mandamus; therefore, the Court should apply the abuse of discretion standard of review. Second, amicus counsel argues that, generally, ballot petitions in Michigan must substantially comply with statutory and constitutional requirements in order to be valid. Petitioners have made no effort to meet the statutory requirements. Third, amicus counsel argues that the management of Bay City’s water and sewer utility systems, including the potential sale of such, is administrative, not legislative, and therefore, under Michigan law, not eligible for initiative by city voters. Lastly, amicus counsel argues that Petitioner’s initiative petition is not really an initiative at all because the petition presents an advisory question as to how the City should manage its utility systems, therefore, it is invalid.


We find that the petitions, as worded, therefore relate to administrative functions that are not subject to referendum or initiative.
Having determined that the petitions, as written, relate to administrative functions not subject to initiative, we need not address whether the trial court erred in determining that the
form of the petitions did not substantially comply with legal requirements.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

Joseph Rivet in his personal capacity as an elector of the City of
Bay City and on behalf of the Citizens of Affordable Bay City (hereinafter “Petitioners/Appellants”), submitted petitions for initiative (hereinafter the “Petitions”) to the Bay City Clerk. The simple, plainly stated and easy to understand questions to be put to the electors of the City of Bay City ask whether
they should reorganize the governmental services that they themselves own. The city attorney rendered an opinion rejecting the petition, determining that it was administrative, rather than legislative, in nature. The city charter provides for citizen-initiated legislation.

Case Number: 2011-11
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