TAWAS CITY – A Roscommon judge with Michigan’s 34th Circuit Court has ruled in favor of the Iosco County Prosecutor’s office in that office’s bid to get a temporary restraining order to keep the department’s funding at 2020 levels.
Judge Robert Bennett signed the temporary restraining order during a hearing held Dec. 23. He also signed an order that called for a show-cause hearing for the county to show why the court should not issue a Writ of Mandamus for the county to provide a serviceable amount of funding for the prosecutor’s office, and restore the office’s access to the OUIL fund it had before.
A Writ of Mandamus is an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion, according to the Cornell Law School.
This came after the recent adoption of Iosco County’s 2021 General Fund budget, which included many cuts including the elimination of a full time position from the prosecutor’s office, among other layoffs.
Iosco County Prosecutor Jim Bacarella’s civil lawsuit was filed in Iosco County’s 23rd Circuit Court on Dec. 18 by Grewal Law PLLC of Okemos and sought an “ex parte motion” for a temporary restraining order and “ex parte motion” for order to show cause against the county.
Ex parte motions are typically hard to obtain from courts and ask a court to make a determination favoring the plaintiff’s side, pending a hearing.
Bacarella’s lawsuit alleges that the position of prosecutor, being a constitutionally and statutorily created position, has a constitutionally required minimum amount of funding that the county has to provide so he can run his office. The lawsuit is asking that the county provide legal reasoning as to why the funding should not be provided.
His case cites a case that occurred in Wayne County in 1979, where county officials made budget cuts, and the Michigan Court of Appeals restored the funding after a lawsuit showed the county did not have authority to cut the budget. The lawsuit cites Wayne Co Prosecutor v Wayne Co Bd of Comm’rs, 93 Mich App 114, 121-22 (1979).
Bacarella’s lawsuit alleged that the prosecutor’s office would suffer irreparable harm without the restraining order as the new budget was subject to be implemented in just two weeks before the start of the new year.
The new restraining order found that the immediate facts of Bacarella’s lawsuit “show immediate and irreparable injury, loss and damage to the public will result without injunctive relief” and that “based upon the facts shown in Plaintiff’s Verified Complaint and supporting documents, justice requires that the court grant the restraining order.”
The two new court orders do a number of things. The restraining order stops the county of implementing the new budget, in respects to the prosecutor’s office, until further notice from the court and orders the county to keep the prosecutor’s office’s status quo of funding from 2020. Iosco Count has been ordered to show cause as to why a preliminary injunction should not be issued by filing a response within 21 days. Additionally, a hearing has been set for Jan. 29 in Ogemaw County’s 34th Circuit Court.
Bacarella said he did not have comment on the active litigation. Iosco County Co-Administrators Nancy Huebel or Mindy Schirmer had no comment on the lawsuit. More information on the lawsuit will be included in future editions of the newspaper.