Legal Defense Fund Top 25 Cases by Importance and Issue
Its genesis and function
The Michigan Municipal League Legal Defense Fund (LDF) was formed in 1983 as an advocacy program for Michigan’s municipalities in the state and federal appellate courts. The LDF provides support and assistance to member municipalities and their attorneys in cases where the issues have a broad impact on both the municipality involved in the case and on other municipalities throughout the state.
The LDF is governed by a board consisting of the president and the executive director of the Michigan Municipal League and the eleven member board of directors of the Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys, which includes the League’s General Counsel who serves as the LDF Fund Administrator.
The LDF has experienced a steady growth in membership from 88 in its first year to 440 in 2008, its 25th year. Nearly 85 percent of League members are members of the LDF. Each year approximately 24 cases are considered for action by the LDF. In its 25-year history, the LDF has reviewed over 370 cases.
Typically, amicus curiae briefs are filed on behalf of the Michigan Municipal League in state and federal courts and financed in whole or in part by the LDF. Amicus curiae briefs are, literally, friend of the court briefs. Generally, amicus briefs may only be filed by an amicus party with a court if that court grants permission for the amicus party to do so. From time to time, the Michigan Supreme Court has on its own specifically invited the League to file an amicus brief. In 2007 alone, the Court requested that the League file amicus briefs in six cases. And, in 2008, in an unprecedented act, the Court requested that the League‘s amicus counsel participate in oral argument in a case involving municipal labor law issues.
In order to give you, the reader, a “feel” for the types of municipal issues that are litigated in the courts, the current board of directors selected 25 of the most significant cases in which the LDF has participated in the past 25 years. Not all of the results were necessarily favorable to municipalities. But the majority of cases either resulted in a victory for municipalities or provided a catalyst for subsequent legislative action when appropriate. The board then ranked the 25 cases by importance. The cases are presented in this summary by category. Significantly, there are more cases dealing with governmental immunity/liability and the exceptions to immunity than any other category. Other “popular” issues include billboards, taxation, and zoning.
We are proud to provide this as a tribute to the efforts and importance of the Michigan Municipal League’s Legal Defense Fund on its 25th anniversary!