[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Monday upheld [opinion, PDF] the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a group of Detroit citizens seeking to stop the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) [official website] from discontinuing service to customers who are behind on their bills. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief stopping water shut-offs and restoring service for those who had fallen behind on their payments, and also asked for an order directing DWSD to adopt a water payment plan with payments based off of the customer’s income. The court ruled that because Detroit had filed for bankruptcy, it was protected from such and injunction by the Bankruptcy Code. The court stated that granting the requested relief would interfere with the city of Detroit’s political and governmental power, its property and revenues, and its right to use its income-producing property.
Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy [JURIST backgrounder] in July 2013. At the time of the filing, Detroit listed the affordable provision of basic utilities as one of numerous difficulties it and its citizens were facing. In 2014 DWSD shut off water to thousands of residents [ThinkProgress report] who had fallen behind on bill payments. This gave rise to three UN experts condemning [JURIST report] DWSD’s actions as a violation of human rights. Currently, DWSD offers a 10/30/50 plan [official description] in order to aid individuals who are delinquent on their payments. The plan [official flyer], which has no income restrictions, allows residents to pay 10 percent of their past due balance monthly and still retain service. Should one miss a payment, they are then required to pay 30 percent of their balance, and, if they miss a third payment, they are to pay 50 percent of their past due balance.