Supreme Court overturns Engler Majority standing decision
In one of the broadest rulings to come out of the Michigan Supreme Court since the defeat of the "sleeping judge," Cliff Taylor, changed the Court's composition, this week the Court overturned the limitations on "standing to sue" that the Engler Majority had imposed. Most voters will recall that Taylor and his fellow Engler Majority Justices had incurred the wrath of environmentalists when they ruled that the words "any person" in Michigan's Environmental Protection Act did not actually allow "any person" to sue to protect the environment. The Engler Majority held that in order to sue over damage to a river watershed, for example, a potential litigant must show actual injury to property owned by the litigant within the watershed: this decision (and other similar decisions) appeared to directly contradict both the language and the intent of the MEPA. The Engler Majority applied a similarly restricted analysis of "standing to sue" in several other non-environmental situations.This week's decision in Lansing Schools Education Association v. Lansing Board of Education rejected the Engler Majority's restrictive holdings, finding no basis for the rulings in Michigan's Constitution. In the current case, four teachers sued to require the School Board to comply with a mandatory expulsion law applicable to students who physically assault a teacher. The School Board had refused to comply with the law and the lower court had held that under the Engler Majority's standing test, the teachers and their union had no right to sue to force the Board to comply. The Supreme Court overturned the earlier Engler Majority standing decisions and restored the historical case-by-case analysis that would allow aggrieved individuals to seek redress where a clearly-delineated right had been legislatively articulated. The Court noted that the standing requirement was created to assure "sincere and vigorous advocacy" and that the restrictive measures imposed by the Engler Majority went far beyond the original and historical intent of the rule.