Susette Kelo stands near her home in New London.
School choice, freedom of speech, overreaching environmental laws, private property rights, campaign finance, government efficiency and much, much more. These are the subjects of the more than 40 amicus briefs the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has signed on to or authored. An amicus brief is a document that a person or organization files with the court to support a position of someone involved in a lawsuit.
In many of those cases, the actions of individuals and businesses in Michigan influence laws across the nation. Some were even influential in U.S. Supreme Court decisions, protecting the rights of individuals everywhere.
Mark Janus speaking at a Mackinac Center event.
Everyone agrees with protecting the environment, but state and federal rules often set up an arbitrary and unfair process. These bureaucratic regulations can violate the private property rights of individuals, which are the foundation of a free society. In the 2005 cases of Rapanos and Carabell, landowners in Michigan’s Midland and Macomb counties fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, objecting to strict federal rules allowing property runoff to be considered a “wetland.”
An even more high-profile case that involved a Mackinac Center brief was Kelo v. City of New London, which exposed the misuse of eminent domain. When Susette Kelo’s local government tried to forcibly take her house to give it to a multinational company, all in the name of economic development, she fought all the way to the highest court in the land. Unfortunately, she lost in a 5-4 decision, but the blowback from that infamous decision was an impetus for Michigan to pass a constitutional amendment with strong private property protections.
Though it is no stranger to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Mackinac Center does not neglect its home state. Several cases it has intervened in here have involved state agencies overruling individuals in favor of the government. Businessman Alan Taylor of Sparta, Michigan, tried to expand a parking lot, unknowingly violating a state regulation and facing thousands of dollars in fines. The cases of Taylor v. DEQ in 2011 and Heaphy v. MDEQ in 2006 were attempts to protect private property rights against the state’s use of regulations to essentially take land from citizens.
It’s important that the state provide an even playing field for everyone. That’s why the Legal Foundation supported briefs in the 2006 DPG v. York case, which challenged the state for giving priority to Toyota over other buyers when it came to land purchases. It’s also important that all public charter schools are not denied the funds due them under state law. So, an amicus brief in MEA v. Superintendent of Public Instruction supported a public charter school that was under attack from opponents of school choice.
While everyone should have the right to decide whether they want to join a union or not, too often the government tilts the playing field. At the U.S. Supreme Court, the Janus v. AFSCME case in 2018 prominently cited work from the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation when ensuring the First Amendment rights of every public employee in the nation to fully leave their union. Other labor cases supported by briefs helped lead to freedom for hundreds of thousands of day care and home health caregivers forced into labor unions as “public” employees. Michigan state employees and workers in states without right-to-work laws were supported by the Legal Foundation advocating for their rights.
Over the years, Mackinac Center work influenced major legal victories that gave Michigan state employees right-to-work, limited bureaucrats in the Great Lakes State by rejecting the Chevron doctrine, protected the First Amendment rights of public sector workers nationwide. The range of cases influenced by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is vast, and their effects will continue well into the future.