Government Law

Detroit v. Detroit: Law Prof Represents City as Council Seeks to Fire Mayor

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As a battle between the mayor of Detroit and the Detroit city council heats up after a scandal over an apparent affair and claimed perjury allegedly revealed by text messages in an $8.4 million police whistle-blower case, each side has hired special counsel.

The latest to weigh in is Wayne State University law professor Robert Sedler, a constitutional law and civil rights expert, reports the Detroit Free Press. Although he has been retained by the city law department to help argue that the council has no power to oust Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from office at a planned July 7 forfeiture hearing, he doesn’t represent the mayor, Sedler notes.

“Certainly my position is that the forfeiture should be resisted because it has no basis in law,” he says. “The law department has an independent responsibility to represent the city.”

Meanwhile, the council has brought in its own heavy hitter to argue the opposite side of the case: William Goodman. A former legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, he is currently a private practitioner specializing in civil rights law in Detroit and teaches part-time at Wayne State University, according to the Detroit News and the law school’s website.

Goodman has helped the council craft a procedure for removing Kilpatrick from office, if it finds that he violated the city charter, explains a Detroit News article describing the rules that will apply at the forfeiture hearing.

Kilpatrick allegedly agreed to settle two police whistle-blower cases against the city for $8.4 million after the plaintiffs’ lawyer revealed that he had copies of text messages between the mayor and this then-chief of staff, Christine Beatty. The messages reportedly revealed an apparent affair between the two—and that their testimony in proceedings related to the whistle-blower cases may not have been truthful.

The council, whose members say they weren’t told about the text messages when they approved the settlement, is now up in arms about the settlement, which has sparked public outrage.

Both Kilpatrick and Beatty have been charged in a criminal obstruction of justice case, and a felony conviction would be grounds to remove the mayor from office. Even if he is convicted, however, Kilpatrick—who is represented by Dan Webb, the chairman of Chicago’s Winston & Strawn—is likely to have completed his term of office by the time the criminal case is resolved.

Other attorneys involved in the settlement are reportedly under investigation for possible violations of legal ethics rules.

Additional coverage: “10 Detroit Lawyers Probed Over $8.4M Claimed Sex Scandal Cover-up” “Sex, Lies and Text Messages: Mich. Judge Makes Legal Memo Public”

Detroit News: “Goodman meets with Detroit Council on forfeiture hearings procedure”

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