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Nine Detroit water activists finally get their trial to move forward

Jan 10, 2017

A group of water activists who have had their trial delayed for over two years are ready for it to move forward.

The so-called Homrich Nine were charged with disorderly conduct after blocking the trucks scheduled to complete water shutoffs in Detroit from leaving Homrich Inc. back in July of 2014.

The activists wanted to go to trial to present a moral case against shutoffs, but the case was delayed for several reasons.

Judge Michael Hathaway had been overseeing the case, but said last month, days before he retired, that all his rulings should be erased because he didn't have jurisdiction.

Julie Hurwitz, one of the attorneys for the Homrich Nine, believes Judge Hathaway prevented the defendants from being able to make their case.

“The defense team handled that trial by introducing very powerful evidence that went to the heart of why these water shut offs were immoral,” Hurwitz said.

According to Hurwitz, Judge Hathaway had two separate private meetings with the city of Detroit’s law department, and did not notify the defense team or give it an opportunity to respond.

“[Hathaway] issued two rulings out of those meetings that were completely improper and were in violation of the rules and the code of judicial candidate ethics and the law,” she said.

Hurwitz claims the defendants wanted the trial to go forward, rather than be ruled a mistrial, so they could morally defend preventing water shut offs in the city.

Kim Redigan, one of the Homrich Nine, is a high school teacher in Detroit. She wants the trial to happen soon so she can reiterate the importance water has for all people.

“I pledged to protect children, and I will not see babies and children and families living without water,” Redigan said. “We've been waiting, they've been waiting much longer.”

Redigan said the activists have been wrongly characterized as fighting for free water.

"We aren't saying people shouldn't have to pay for water, we're not saying that at all, but the water should at least be affordable," she said.

Redigan pointed to a 2005 Water Affordability Program that could have solved this issue. The plan was to have income-based water bills, similar to income-based taxes. 

For more on the Water Affordability Program, go to the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization's website.

The case is scheduled to move forward with Judge Ruth Ann Garrett in Wayne County District Court April 4.