Sunday, August 2, 2015

Michigan Smart Water Meter Case--Another Cautionary Tale

 Court of Appeals States That a Properly Presented Case
Could Prove That City Does Not Have the Authority
to Install Smart Meters Against the Will of the Residents

But plaintiff in this case did not provide
adequate evidence or legal arguments

The Michigan Court of Appeals has made a decision in a smart water meter case that some

of you have been following. Plaintiff rightly refused to let the City of Warren install a smart water meter on his home, and the city shut off his water. Plaintiff filed suit against the city. Like with another smart meter case, the plaintiff’s motives and reasons were good, but his legal arguments were lacking. This case should in no way be taken as a verdict on the legality or morality of smart water meter installation. The court itself said that if the plaintiff had properly presented the argument (the argument being that the city does not have the authority to install smart meters against the will of the residents), “it would be a question of law subject to de novo review” [p 2 of decision]. In other words, if you put your case together properly, you could win.

There are several reasons why the court ruled against the plaintiff.

  1. He didn't raise the issues correctly and he didn't properly preserve them for appeal.  
  2. He made assertions, but didn’t back them up with the necessary legal arguments or factual evidence.
  3. Many of the arguments were nearly indecipherable.
The court made a very important point. Quoting two previous cases (brought on different issues), the court said: “It is not enough for an appellant in his brief simply to . . . assert an error and then leave it up to this Court to . . . unravel and elaborate for him his arguments, and then search for authority either to sustain or reject his position” [p 2 of decision]. In other words, just like with a paper in high school or college, you’ve got to make the arguments yourself, not expect the teacher/court to make them for you. And you’ve got to back your assertions up with evidence and appropriate legal citations. Or, for another analogy: Unless you’re trained, you probably wouldn’t try to repair your car yourself. All this stuff looks so easy and obvious—especially because we know we are right—but once you get into the mix, you find out it’s really complicated.

What About Norton v Shelby County? As David Sheldon and myself have long contended, the U.S. Supreme Court case Norton v Shelby County is not applicable to the smart meter situation. While full of resonant language that can stir the heart of any American, Norton is not applicable because, among other things, the political divisions of and political offices in the State of Michigan have been created legally. The court of appeals agreed, saying:  The plaintiff “cites to Norton v Shelby Co, 118 US 425 (1886), but he does not explain how Norton, a case determining whether a law purporting to create a board of commissioners violated the Tennessee Constitution . . . applies or supports his argument.” [Emphases added; citations omitted.] In simple terms: You have to back your arguments up, and you have to do so with good evidence and legal reasoning. See David Sheldon’s article on Norton v Shelby County.
Read the court's decision here.

All of the individuals who have had the fortitude and courage to go to court over the smart meter issue are to be commended. How do you support them? Reading this blog is not enough! You have to get the word out—to the residents of your city and other cities, to your legislators and city councils, to your friends. If you haven’t locked your meter, lock it up! If you have a smart meter on your home, let us know you want to remove it. Read our How You Can Help page for more information.

There will soon be legislation introduced in the House to provide for an analog opt-out. Unless the word gets out more than it has been, this bill is not going to go through. YOU have to act. Flyering is the NUMBER ONE way we have to get the word out, and it is effective. DO IT! .For the Stenmans, for Leslie, for me, and for the countless other people whose lives are being devastated by these meters!  And for yourself--the long-term damage from smart meters will be terrible for EVERYONE. We must stop it! Act now! 

Next time, we will bring you news on the successes Michigan residents  are having fighting the smart water meters. 

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