Michigan State Supreme Court to Decide the Definition of 14 pt Type
It's been said that democracy is a fragile thing, but can it really be that an entire form of government can depend on the definition of "14 pt" type?
That's the case in Michigan right now, where the fate of schools, labor unions, cites, and the very nature of local government will hinge on a state Supreme Court ruling about what exactly constitutes 14 pt type.
Here's the backstory:
In 2011, a new law known as the emergency manger law took effect in Michigan. It gave the governor the power to appoint un-elected people to take over financially troubled local governments and schools and cancel labor contracts to save money.
Not surprisingly, this law is strongly opposed by labor unions and voting rights advocates, who have backed an initiative to get a question about repealing the emergency manager law on Michigan ballots this fall. They circulated petitions and gathered more than enough signatures to get the question added to the ballots.
But now the validity of the petition is being challenged on the grounds that the type used was too small. Michigan law states that the headings used in ballot petitions must be set in "14 pt type." The challengers of the petition state that the type, which was set in 14 pt Calibri in Microsoft Word, is not actually 14 pts when rendered in print.
So seven Michigan Supreme Court justices (and many observers in the packed courtroom) have been given a crash course in typography. By now, they certainly know as any designer does, that the visual size of type varies widely depending on the typeface used.
The key legal issue is whether the type rendered by modern software like Word meets the intended standard, which was chosen back in the 1950's when type was set by hand, and leading was actually made of lead.
So what does the term "14 pt type" mean in 2012? That is what the Michigan Supreme Court justices will decide, and their answer may determine much about how their state and local governments operate for years to come.
And even that may not be the final word. Opponents of the emergency manager law have vowed to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if the Michigan Supreme Court rules that the type was not large enough.
For more on the Michigan 14 pt story, check out the following:
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