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Appeals Court: State Right To Toss Inman Recall Petitions

Larry Inman
GOP House

The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of a group trying to remove an indicted lawmaker from office, agreeing Friday with state election officials who disqualified recall petitions that had a missing word.

In a 2-1 order, the court said petitions must strictly comply with and not differ from the wording approved by the Board of State Canvassers.

Nearly 14,000 voter signatures were submitted to force a recall election for state Rep. Larry Inman of Williamsburg, whom a jury last week acquitted of lying to the FBI. Jurors deadlocked on attempted bribery and extortion charges stemming from an alleged scheme to trade his vote on wage legislation for campaign donations from a union, and he may be tried again in federal court.

In late November, state elections director Sally Williams told the Recall Inman Committee that its signatures were insufficient because the heading of every sheet, when listing the criminal charges Inman faces, said attempted extortion “under color of official” instead of “under color of official right.”

Rejecting petitions because of one word might seem “excessively technical and harsh,” she said, but there is no wiggle room.

As required under state law, the recall committee — which blames the missing word and a misspelled word on printing errors — appealed directly to the appeals court.

Judges Mark Cavanagh and Thomas Cameron voted to reject the appeal. Judge Douglas Shapiro supported it.

He said the law imposes more narrow grounds for deeming a recall petition insufficient, and “typographical mistakes” do not mean that the reasons for the recall are different than what had been certified by canvassers.

“Indeed, no one has even articulated how the language of the circulated petition could be construed as presenting a different reason for the sought recall than were presented in the preapproved form,” Shapiro wrote.

Inman, a Republican in his third and final House term under term limits, was stripped of his committee assignments, staff and office access by GOP House Speaker Lee Chatfield when the charges were filed in May. He also is barred from attending Republican caucus meetings.

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