On September 23, 2017 members of the NLG Detroit and Michigan Chapter were granted “Legal Water Warriors” awards by the Defendants in the Homrich 9 case at a dinner at St. Peters Episcopal Church in Detroit. In addition, the People’s Water Board and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization joined in presenting the awards. Members of the “Homrich 9” were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct when, on July 18, 2014, they blocked trucks for several hours in protest of the city’s water shut-off policy Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann, pastor of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and one of the activists charged in the case. Also charged were Marian Kramer of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and activists Kim Redigan, Hans Barbe, James Perkinson, Marianne McGuire and David Olson.
The defense team succeeded in having all charges dropped after prosecution delays and obstructionist tactics resulted in denial of an opportunity for a fair trial. Judge Ronald Giles of the 36th District Court dismissed all charges in June, 2017 due to lack of a speedy trial, according to court records. John Royal, chapter president, and Julie Hurwitz, chapter vice president, were lead counsel in the defense.
The defense of the Homrich 9 was aided by the experience of the Guild led litigation in the case of Lyda v. Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which fought the water shut-offs of low income residents during the Detroit Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy. The lead lawyers in that case were Guild lawyers Alice Jennings (awarded the 2015 Ernie Goodman award by the Guild) and Kurt Thornbladh, treasurer of the Detroit Chapter. Other major litigation by Guild lawyers attacked the Highland Park, Michigan water rates, the Flint, Michigan water rates, and sought relief for children poisoned by heavily leaded water in Flint, Michigan. The principles for which the Detroit and Michigan Guild has been fighting can be found in a law review article, Prof. Sharmila Murthy, “A New Constitutive Commitment to Water”, 36 Boston College Journ. Law & Social Justice 159-233 (June 2016).\
Persons receiving Water Warrior awards included Julie Hurwitz, Allison Kriger, Jerry Goldberg, Rick Haberman, Nicholas Klaus, Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Lee Andrews, John Royal, Ashley Carter, Daniel Fryer, Kathryn James, Sean Riddell, William Goodman, Robert Burton-Harris, Kathleen Quackenbush, Joe McGuire, Steve Lockhart, Shaun P. Godwin, Ann Rall, Denise Heberle, Deborah Choly, Matthew Robb, Cary McGehee, Jayesh Patel, Karene Meneses, Kara Sullivan, Liz Young, and Kimberly Grzic. ■