Detroit water shutoffs continue after judge says poor have no right to water
September 29, 2014

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes on Monday refused to block the city from shutting off water to delinquent customers for six months, saying there is no right to free water and Detroit can’t afford to lose the revenue.

Rhodes’s order served as a stinging rejection of arguments made by thousands of protesters who staged rallies last summer fighting shutoffs and argued that there is a fundamental right to water service.

"There is no such right or law," Rhodes said.

A six-month ban on water shut-offs would boost the rate of customer defaults and threaten Detroit’s revenue, the judge added.

"The last thing (Detroit) needs is this hit to its revenues," the judge said.

Rhodes issued his ruling after two days of hearings last week and said he lacked the power to issue a water shut-off moratorium. Regardless, a lawyer for 10 residents failed to convince him there was justification for such a drastic step, he said.

Rhodes said residents do not have a right to receive water service “let alone service based on an ability to pay.”

Alice Jennings, an attorney representing the 10 residents fighting water shutoffs, said she was “disappointed but not surprised” by the judge’s ruling. Rhodes, she said, missed the issue of safety and underscored the irreparable harm that comes with the shutoffs.

"We will be looking at an appeal," Jennings said. "We believe there is a right to water and there is a right to affordable water."

The city’s policy of shutting off water to residents in one of the nation’s poorest cities briefly overshadowed the city’s historic bankruptcy case and debt-cutting plan, which hinges on spinning off the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to suburban counties.

The city started a more vigorous shut-off campaign in the spring compared to other years in an effort to get more people to pay their outstanding bills or get on a payment plan. Rhodes on Monday called the efforts a “bold, commendable and necessarily aggressive plan.”

About 24,000 city water accounts have been shut off this year. A month-long moratorium halting shutoffs ended in August and crews are now back to shutting off water to up to 400 accounts a day, DWSD officials said last week.

Residents, civic groups, and “The Avengers” actor Mark Ruffalo participated in mass protests in recent months fighting the city’s treatment of delinquent water customers. A pocket of protesters lined West Lafayette Boulevard outside federal court Monday.

Ten residents requested the moratorium, saying it would give the city time to establish a plan to better help those who can’t afford to pay their water bills. Lawyers for Detroit say such an order would encourage further delinquency, cause the department to lose revenues and lead to higher rates.

During closing arguments, Jennings argued the “hodgepodge” of programs designed to aid a limited group of residents facing water shut-offs isn’t good enough for the city plagued by widespread poverty.

Jennings told the judge that a “very brief” stop to shut-offs would give the city more time to craft a cohesive program.

Tom O’Brien, an attorney for the water department, has countered that a 10-point plan to educate and assist low-income residents wasn’t constructed overnight.

"It was developed," he said, and "was intended to be practical."

O’Brien also played up a fund outlined in the plan, and a separate pot of annual aid money called for in a proposed Great Lakes Water Authority.

"That’s significant money, it goes a long way," he said.

Detroit’s bankruptcy trial, meanwhile, resumes Monday, five days after City Council members reclaimed power over city government while agreeing to keep Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr in place for bankruptcy-related duties.

The deal means council will resume control over city departments, contracts and other day-to-day matters. Orr’s official removal will be effective if the city’s debt-cutting bankruptcy plan is confirmed.

Orr is expected to testify soon about the debt-cutting plan.


Congratulations Amal Alamuddin, Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, co-editor of The Special Tribunal for Lebanon: Law and Practice, and contributor to Principles of Evidence in International Criminal Justice, on her recent marriage. Best wishes from the law team and all of us at Oxford University Press! (via Internationally acclaimed barrister Amal Alamuddin marries an actor - The Business Woman Media)

anonymous said:

Okay, kind of a weird one, but sort of a futuristic AU where Elsa's an advanced service robot for Anna's family, and quietly struggles with emotions toward her young charge that she doesn't understand. Anna, meanwhile, is determined to prove Elsa's more than just a pretty machine. Sorry,

Here we go! Maybe not so ‘quietly’, but here we go:


"Don’t forget to change Elsa’s batteries before leaving," Anna’s mother reminded her.

"Mom, you know Elsa uses solar power. We don’t need to change anything."

"Then why did she die once, huh?"

"That was my fault. I spilled something on her by accident."

It wasn’t entirely true. In fact, it wasn’t true at all. Elsa had only pretended to die so that Anna could have a good excuse to stay home instead of going to that party and risking an encounter with Hans. But that was a secret between Anna and the robot, because Elsa had acted without prior programming, and without Anna’s request. Elsa had acted on her own. And Anna wasn’t sure service robots were supposed to do that.

"Anyway, make sure she’s working properly. The bus will be here anytime, so hurry up. Anna, I don’t want any more complaints from your teachers, okay?"

"Yes, mom."

After her mother had left Anna began to half-heartedly toss notebooks into her backpack. A soft knock on the door interrupted her boredom. Elsa.

"Hey, Anna, do you need any help?"

"No, I’m fine. Thank you."

"Do you want me to do your hair?"

Anna rolled her eyes. “Sure.”

She sat on her bed and Elsa began to braid her impossible red mane.

"Anna, you have three exams next week, they’re worth fifteen percent of your final grade. You need a minimum of 80 percent to pass decently. You have an appointment with the dentist today at five and piano practice tomorrow. I downloaded the sheet music, it’s in your laptop."

"Thank you, Elsa."

"You don’t sound too enthusiastic," the robot noted.

"You know how much I hate all this."

"I do," said Elsa. She placed a hand on Anna’s shoulder. "I wish I could do more to help you."

Anna stared at the hand. She wasn’t sure service robots were supposed to initiate physical contact with their owners.

"Elsa, how long have you been working with us?"

"Three months, two weeks, six days, and twenty hours. Since December 15 at 11 am sharp."

"Longer than I thought. Do you have any plans for today?"

"Some housecleaning. Your mother is going shopping and she’ll take me with her to help. Then I’ll go with you to the dentist, and then I’m picking up your father."

"Now you don’t sound too enthusiastic.”

Elsa’s response was automatic. “I’m sorry. I’ll brighten up if you like. Do you want to change my settings manually or through the menu?”

"Neither. Let’s be bitter together. I want you to tell me, don’t you ever wish you were somewhere different? With another family?"

Elsa didn’t answer. Anna supposed they weren’t programmed to speak against their owners.

"Well, don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll-"

"No," said Elsa.


"I don’t wish I was somewhere else. I like it here."

"Really? Why?"

"Because… because you’re here."

Anna looked at Elsa. Were service robots supposed to look down and fidget with their clothing? Were they supposed to look embarrassed?


The robot interrupted her. “Excuse me, I just had a software update, I don’t know what I’m saying.”

"I think you do."

"Your hair is ready. I should probably go."

Elsa turned to the door, but Anna stopped her.

"I know you’re different, Elsa. Different from the other robots. You’re special."

"I’m not. It’s just the update. Please, Anna, please. You’re human. I’m not. End of story."

"Please, don’t go."

"It’s my duty, it’s… it’s what I was made for. I-I can’t do- I can’t feel, I shouldn’t feel, Anna, b-but-"

The human girl was silent. Elsa looked even more embarrassed after her struggle with words.

Anna was pretty sure service robots weren’t supposed to stammer.

"Elsa…" she said again.

Anna was almost sure service robots weren’t supposed to take a step towards her. Or two.

Elsa was a handful of centimetres away from her now. She kept fidgeting, but then her face calmed. She had made a decision. She was thinking.

Anna was fairly sure service robots weren’t supposed to brush little hairs off her face and stroke her cheek.

"Your skin is so soft," Anna noted.

"It’s silicone, 3-D printed new generation.Your skin is soft, too."

"Mine’s just human skin."

" ‘Just’ human skin? It’s precious, Anna. You’re precious.”

Anna was almost sure service robots weren’t supposed to place their hands on an owner’s waist, or pull them in ever so softly.

Anna was quite sure service robots were not supposed to have adoration in their eyes when looking at their owner.

She parted her lips, tilted her head upwards, closed her eyes.

Another pair of lips touched her own, soft, warm, trembling, 3-D printed new generation lips.

Anna opened her eyes to look into Elsa’s. She smiled. Elsa smiled. Elsa panicked. She released Anna, horrified, and bolted out the door.

Anna put her fingers to her lips.

Anna was absolutely sure service robots and humans were not supposed to fall in love. And Anna was completely sure they just had.

Sometimes we can become so engrossed with our pain, that we miss the point. Pain can traumatize you to the point where you can’t think clearly, you can’t reason, it becomes difficult to figure things out. You can have pain so deep that you lose your sense of self, your personality, you become a different person. Don’t let your pain stop you from being who you are! There is purpose in your pain, reclaim your territory, get your stuff back! I pray that “your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. (Isaiah 58:8)
—  T.D. Jakes