Ypsilanti attorney David Raaflaub has filed a lawsuit against the Washtenaw County board of commissioners over a resolution that the board passed on Oct. 16, 2013. The resolution, which was approved on a 5-4 vote, urged state legislators to repeal Michigan’s Stand Your Ground law. [.pdf of board resolution] [.pdf of Raaflaub complaint]
The complaint, filed on Oct. 21 in the 22nd Circuit Court of Washtenaw County, asks the court to determine two issues: (1) what authority the board has that enables it to “draw conclusions of law,” and (2) what authority the board has to represent the county in seeking changes to state law.
Curtis Hedger, the county’s corporation counsel, stated in an Oct. 24 email to The Chronicle that the county is in the process of retaining counsel who will respond to the lawsuit on the board’s behalf.
The five commissioners who voted in favor of the resolution were Felicia Brabec (D-District 4), Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6), Andy LaBarre (D-District 7), Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) and Conan Smith (D-District 9). Voting against it were Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1), Dan Smith (R-District 2), Alicia Ping (R-District 3), and Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5).
Reached via email on Oct. 24, Dan Smith indicated that he would bring forward a resolution to rescind the board’s previous action, if it’s determined that the county will incur additional costs – such as fees for outside legal counsel – to defend the lawsuit.
Michigan’s Stand Your Ground law – Public Act 309, the Michigan Self Defense Act – was enacted in 2006. In early September, county board chair Yousef Rabhi had announced his intent to bring forward a resolution urging the state legislature to repeal the law, similar to resolutions passed by the Ann Arbor city council on Aug. 8, 2013 and by the Ypsilanti city council on Aug. 20, 2013. The resolution had originally appeared on the county board’s Sept. 18 agenda, but was pulled from the agenda before the meeting when it became uncertain that it would win sufficient support to pass, given the anticipated absence of some commissioners.
Supporters of the law spoke at the Sept. 18 and Oct. 2 county board meetings, and showed up again on Oct. 16. Many of the speakers were from outside of Washtenaw County, and wore sidearms to the meeting. Some were affiliated with Michigan Open Carry Inc., an advocacy group based in Lansing that has been urging people to attend the Washtenaw County board meetings to protest the proposed resolution. The resolution also attracted the attention of the National Rifle Association. The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action issued an alert on Oct. 11 calling the resolution “misguided” and providing contact information for the nine county commissioners.
The extensive public commentary on Oct. 16 included more than three dozen speakers on both sides of the issue, but dominated by supporters of the Stand Your Ground law. The county had extra security on hand at the meeting.
Raaflaub is a member of the Washtenaw County Republican executive committee. He was the Republican candidate for county commissioner in District 6 in the November 2012 election, running against incumbent Democrat Ronnie Peterson, who won that election.