John Anthony La Pietra
For the People
386 Boyer Court * Marshall, MI 49068
For Immediate Release
October 8, 2014
Green Candidate for Attorney General Continues Fight
for Constitutional Rights in Benton Harbor Recall Case
La Pietra Renews Invitation to Michigan Supreme Court
to Let Voters Be Counted as Signing Political Petitions
Stands Alone Against Incumbent, Major Law Firms
to Defend Core First Amendment Speech Rights
John Anthony La Pietra, Green Party of Michigan candidate for
Attorney General, today filed a motion asking the state Supreme Court to
reconsider its earlier "no-decision" order and recognize the
Constitutional rights of Michigan voters to sign political petitions and
La Pietra's motion to reconsider comes in the case of a mayoral
recall petition in Benton Harbor -- a case he has carried to the Supreme
Court, charging no fee and standing alone against the incumbent Attorney
General's office as well as two major law firms.
The core issue in the case is whether a registered voter who
happened to sign a petition validly twice is entitled to be counted
once. If so, the Benton Harbor petition had enough valid signatures to
put the recall on the ballot.
John won at the Berrien County Trial Court by pointing out that the
practice applied by County Clerk Sharon Tyler -- of invalidating all
signatures of such duplicate signers, regardless of whether they
knowingly tried to get counted twice -- totally denied signers their
core rights to political speech.
He also refuted the clerk's legal arguments, showing that
* there is no state law requiring the "invalidate-all" counting
* a 1940 state court case doesn't support the practice as the
clerk had argued it did; and
* a 1993 Federal case allowing (though not requiring) the
practice under the weakest possible Constitutional scrutiny has been
superseded by the same court and by several US Supreme Court decisions
In an opinion and order issued August 12, Judge John Dewane agreed
with John that the "invalidate-all" practice was an undue burden on the
First Amendment rights of petition signers and circulators, and put the
recall back on the ballot for this November's election.
The clerk appealed, armed with $20,000 in funding from the County
Board and support from two major law firms -- one working for the
Michigan Association of County Clerks -- and the Attorney General's
office, representing the Secretary of State and the Bureau of Elections.
After hearing from all those parties, as well as reading John's
brief and one from the ACLU Fund of Michigan, a three-judge Court of
Appeals panel issued a literally unexplained and unjustified order
September 4 reversing Judge Dewane's balanced and reasoned opinion.
John, working alone, assembled an appeal to the state Supreme Court
and filed it the next day. But after almost two weeks of emergency
consideration, the Court released a one-page order September 17 saying
they wouldn't decide the matter. In the standard formal language, the
order says a majority of the Justices was "not persuaded that the
question presented should be reviewed by this Court."
Court rules allowed La Pietra 21 days to move for reconsideration,
but a recent change requires him to convince the Justices that
reconsideration is necessary to reverse a palpable error.
His motion starts by pointing out that the Michigan Supreme Court
has held since 1913 that even a law enacted by the Legislature to
preserve the purity of elections may not destroy elective rights. The
"invalidate-all" practice is not required by any law, so it may not do
something a law can't.
But the practice does destroy voters' rights to sign petitions and
be counted -- and needlessly, too, since a practice of counting one
valid signature for any qualified voter and striking any others does as
much to prevent fraud.
The motion also reminds the Justices that the Court Clerk's
Elections Administrator Carolyn Toliver and Sheriff's Detective David
Zizkovsky admitted at the Trial Court hearing August 7 to criminal
mishandling of the original petition sheets.
That violates Michigan court precedent saying purity of elections
requires "fairness and evenhandedness" in election laws. And the
"invalidate-all" practice is even more weakened without fairness, notes
La Pietra, since it does not have "a statute or even a promulgated rule
to give it a shield of due process." The misbehavior of the Court
Clerk's office should strip the practice of any presumption of
Constitutionality, he concludes.
La Pietra concedes that it is too late now to put the Benton Harbor
recall on next month's ballot. But the case is not moot; the Supreme
Court can order the recall it onto the ballot next May, for city voters
to decide on it then.
"There is still time for our state's highest court to reconsider
this case in light of the highest law of the land, and decide it *For
John's motion for reconsideration can be seen here:
John also posted the Michigan Supreme Court's previous one-page
The earlier Court of Appeals non-decision is here:
And the six pages of Judge Dewane's original decision are at
These links and more, plus comments from John, are on his campaign
You can also see developments on the case -- about a day behind
time -- at the Court's “Case Search” page:
The Supreme Court's file number for the case is 150019.
For more information about John's campaign -- including his answers
to every candidate survey he's received, as well as some "Opinions" and
other proposals to make sure the job of Attorney General gets done the
most effective way *For the People* -- contact him via phone, e-mail, or
USPS mail, or visit his campaign Facebook page:
John Anthony La Pietra -- Attorney General For the People
386 Boyer Court
Marshall, MI 49068
phone: (269) 781-9478
For more information on the Green Party of Michigan, its Ten Key
Values, its platform, and its other candidates, contact:
Green Party of Michigan
PO Box 504
Warren, MI 48090-0504
# # #
prepared using donated labor by:
JALP -- Attorney General For the People
386 Boyer Ct; Marshall, MI 49068
phone: (269) 781-9478