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MI Supreme Court: Former State Senator's Bar From Office Unenforceable

State Lawmakers and Governor Gretchen Whitmer are now forced to work together on Michigan's coronavirus repsonse after a state Supreme Court ruling upended the Governor's emergency powers.
Michigan's Supreme Court building.

A plea deal that prevented one former lawmaker from holding office for five years is not enforceable. That’s the ruling of the Michigan Supreme Court on Thursday.

Former State Senator Virgil Smith pleaded to criminal charges stemming from an incident where he fired his rifle at his ex-wife's car and into the air while she was nearby. 

As part of a deal with prosecutors, Smith had agreed to resign as a state Senator and not to hold any elected or appointed office during his 5-year probation.

Smith later ran for Detroit City Council and lost.

In its opinion, the court said barring Smith from office goes against public policy.

It said – quote – “We believe that public offices should not be treated like private property.”

The court said, going forward if the prosecution wants to have a bar-to-office provision in an agreement, there has to be a connection between public office and the defendant’s actions. 

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County.
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