Amicus Brief

Lash v City of Traverse City

Case Year: 2006
Case Forum: Michigan Supreme Court
Keywords: residency, public employement, boundary, damages
Amicus Counsel:

Rosalind Rochkind (P23504) | Garan Lucow Miller P.C. | 1000 Woodbridge Street | Detroit MI 48207-3192 | 313-446-5522


MCL 15.602(1) states that a public employer “shall not require… that a person reside within a specified geographic area or within a specified distance or travel time from his or her place of employment as a condition of employment or promotion by the public employer.” However, except as otherwise provided in this section, MCL 15.602(2) does allow public employers to require “that a person reside within a specified distance from
the nearest boundary of the public employer”, as long as that distance is “20 miles or another specified distance greater than 20 miles.” In the case before this Court, the plaintiff complains that the City miscalculated the specified distance when it determined that his property was not within 20 miles of the City’s nearest boundary, and he seeks to impose liability and recover money damages from the City due to its miscalculation. Apparently having abandoned his desire for employment with the City, he has sought neither declaratory nor injunctive relief. One of the questions before this Court is whether, when it enacted MCL 15.601, et seq, the Legislature intended to create a private cause of action whereby a person could recover damages from a public employer as a result of its miscalculation of the “specified distance” when considering the person for employment or promotion. A second question
concerns the appropriate method of calculating the “specified distance”. As “public employers,” the members of the Michigan Municipal League are interested in the proper interpretation of this legislation and support Traverse City’s argument that this
Court reverse the opinions of the Michigan Court of Appeals. These opinions have misconstrued the legislation and legislative intent, and have combined to create a situation
where governmental entities will be forced to engage in what may be difficult calculations of “radial” distance that are inconsistent with their need to ensure the availability of their
emergency work force, while exposing them to tort liability without affirmative legislative expressions which either create a private cause of action for damages or waive the immunity otherwise available to the entities under MCL 691.1401, et seq.


Michigan Supreme Court:
We hold that the 20-mile distance permitted in MCL 15.602(2) is to be measured in a straight line between the employee’s place of residence and the nearest boundary of the public employer. Because defendant’s residency requirement demands that an employee reside within 15 radial miles of the nearest city limit, defendant’s residency requirement contravenes MCL 15.602(2). However, while defendant has violated the statute, nothing in the statute permits plaintiff to maintain a private cause of action for money damages. Moreover, no private right of action to recover money damages may be inferred because defendant is a governmental entity that is entitled to immunity unless the Legislature has explicitly authorized suits by citizens against the governmental entity.
We therefore hold that there is no private right of action for a violation of MCL 15.602(2). The decision of the Court of Appeals is affirmed in part, reversed in part, and we remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

Plaintiff, a police sergeant with the city of Flint, responded to an advertisement seeking applicants for patrol officers with defendant’s police department. The advertisement expressly outlined defendant’s residency requirement: “A residency requirement of 15 miles radius, or 20 road miles, from the nearest City limit will be enforced for selected candidates.”2
Plaintiff was interviewed in December 2002. Subsequently, he received a letter indicating that his interview was successful and that further action would be taken as vacancies arose. The following month, plaintiff purchased a 30-acre parcel of property in Thompsonville, Michigan. The property is located outside the 20-mile limit if measured in road miles, but is within the 20-mile limit if measured in radial miles. As part of a routine preemployment background investigation, defendant discovered that plaintiff’s property was 23 road miles from the nearest city limit. Plaintiff was advised that the hiring process would not continue unless he complied with defendant’s residency requirement. Plaintiff refused to meet the residency requirement and suggested that the city renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement to relax the requirement. Plaintiff’s suggestion was rejected. Because plaintiff refused to comply with defendant’s residency requirement, defendant rescinded the conditional offer of employment and cancelled the scheduled testing. In September 2004, plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit against defendant, seeking only monetary damages for defendant’s “unlawful failure to hire” him. Plaintiff claimed that defendant’s residency requirement violated MCL 15.602 because it required plaintiff to reside closer than 20 miles from defendant’s nearest boundary as measured on a radial basis.

Case Number: 2006-06
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