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On going preliminary injunction hearing for the MCDO v Genesee County case

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Roughly one month after the initial preliminary injunction hearing for the MCDO v Genesee County case regarding the ability to fly drones in the Genesee County Public Parks, drone operators once again filed into a Flint, Michigan courtroom. MCDO, short for Michigan Coalition of Drone Operators, have been seeking for the District court to disallow Genesee County from enforcing an ordinance that effectively bans use in their county parks. They site that Michigan’s Public Act 436 of 2016 expressly disallows local governments (political subdivisions) from creating or enforcing their own drone ordinances per MCL 259.305 establishing state preemption. The county has attempted to defend that the State of Michigan’s law doesn’t apply to them and argues that drones are too noisy and startling and need to be excluded from their parks. Judge Joseph Farah is presiding over the arguments and tasked with what will be a landmark decision on Michigan’s UAS preemption law.

Today’s hearing at the Genesee County Courthouse focused on testimony and evidence provided by Jason Harrison, the President of MCDO who was detained by Genesee County Parks and Recreation officers in December of 2018 for flying a drone at one of the parks. Harrison, a Part 107 certified operator, walked though and detailed his detainment, the attempts to educate the Genesee County Parks Commission (GCPC) on drone use and the Michigan state preemption law, and offered up his understanding of how the GCPC changed the original manned aircraft ordinance to include “drones” after the county prosecutor refused to levy legal action after the detainment incident with the suggestion that flying a drone wasn’t against the original regulation. MCDO attorney Dean Greenblatt methodically walked through a binder full of exhibits offered for evidence with Mr. Harrison testifying as counsel for Genesee County routinely objected and most often overruled.

In defense, the attorney for Genesee County narrowed her focus upon three main concepts. In cross examination of Mr. Harrison she was keen to determine how loud drones were, asking about the noise levels of various sizes and styles of drones. She then turned towards a drone “fly-in” protest organized by Mr. Harrison and other members of MCDO. The fly-in, per her suggestions, was unlawful as it did not have a special group park use permit, making the argument that the roughly dozen attendees would constitute the need for a permit that was never sought. And counsel finally zeroed in on whether or not Mr. Harrison had ever flown with commercial intent in the Genesee County Parks offering up that any commercial use of the parks – even a photographer taking family or senior portraits in the parks – would require a $75 per day use permit.

With the approach of 5pm, Judge Farah noted that a final decision could not be made immediately but that no further oral arguments would be heard for the case. Instead a strict 10 day period for the filing of amended briefs would be tendered to both plaintiff and defense with a written court decision following shortly after. With that the court recessed and parties departed.

The hearing was well attended by drone operators. Fourteen drone operators from around the state came out to support the lawsuit, many donning identical drone ties. Mr. Harrison’s parents also were in attendance to listen to their son’s testimony. Michigan is one of 17 states that have state laws with the same or highly similar preemption language that disallow local governments from creating a patchwork of drone ordinances. The ruling in this case would set a precedent for the State of Michigan on the legality of the preemption clause. If affirmed, it is reasonable to assume that the 33 other states in the nation would be likely to pass similar state law, a move that many drone operators state is necessary to ensure a consistent framework of legal operation. The FAA themselves have publicly argued that localities should not create their own ordinances as doing such actually endangers the national airspace. In the end, while no final decision came through, drone operators felt confident in the legal arguments made and are anxiously awaiting the final word.

75375580_10221355921750964_2685881090161246208_o.jpg
 

DoomMeister

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Roughly one month after the initial preliminary injunction hearing for the MCDO v Genesee County case regarding the ability to fly drones in the Genesee County Public Parks, drone operators once again filed into a Flint, Michigan courtroom. MCDO, short for Michigan Coalition of Drone Operators, have been seeking for the District court to disallow Genesee County from enforcing an ordinance that effectively bans use in their county parks. They site that Michigan’s Public Act 436 of 2016 expressly disallows local governments (political subdivisions) from creating or enforcing their own drone ordinances per MCL 259.305 establishing state preemption. The county has attempted to defend that the State of Michigan’s law doesn’t apply to them and argues that drones are too noisy and startling and need to be excluded from their parks. Judge Joseph Farah is presiding over the arguments and tasked with what will be a landmark decision on Michigan’s UAS preemption law.

Today’s hearing at the Genesee County Courthouse focused on testimony and evidence provided by Jason Harrison, the President of MCDO who was detained by Genesee County Parks and Recreation officers in December of 2018 for flying a drone at one of the parks. Harrison, a Part 107 certified operator, walked though and detailed his detainment, the attempts to educate the Genesee County Parks Commission (GCPC) on drone use and the Michigan state preemption law, and offered up his understanding of how the GCPC changed the original manned aircraft ordinance to include “drones” after the county prosecutor refused to levy legal action after the detainment incident with the suggestion that flying a drone wasn’t against the original regulation. MCDO attorney Dean Greenblatt methodically walked through a binder full of exhibits offered for evidence with Mr. Harrison testifying as counsel for Genesee County routinely objected and most often overruled.

In defense, the attorney for Genesee County narrowed her focus upon three main concepts. In cross examination of Mr. Harrison she was keen to determine how loud drones were, asking about the noise levels of various sizes and styles of drones. She then turned towards a drone “fly-in” protest organized by Mr. Harrison and other members of MCDO. The fly-in, per her suggestions, was unlawful as it did not have a special group park use permit, making the argument that the roughly dozen attendees would constitute the need for a permit that was never sought. And counsel finally zeroed in on whether or not Mr. Harrison had ever flown with commercial intent in the Genesee County Parks offering up that any commercial use of the parks – even a photographer taking family or senior portraits in the parks – would require a $75 per day use permit.

With the approach of 5pm, Judge Farah noted that a final decision could not be made immediately but that no further oral arguments would be heard for the case. Instead a strict 10 day period for the filing of amended briefs would be tendered to both plaintiff and defense with a written court decision following shortly after. With that the court recessed and parties departed.

The hearing was well attended by drone operators. Fourteen drone operators from around the state came out to support the lawsuit, many donning identical drone ties. Mr. Harrison’s parents also were in attendance to listen to their son’s testimony. Michigan is one of 17 states that have state laws with the same or highly similar preemption language that disallow local governments from creating a patchwork of drone ordinances. The ruling in this case would set a precedent for the State of Michigan on the legality of the preemption clause. If affirmed, it is reasonable to assume that the 33 other states in the nation would be likely to pass similar state law, a move that many drone operators state is necessary to ensure a consistent framework of legal operation. The FAA themselves have publicly argued that localities should not create their own ordinances as doing such actually endangers the national airspace. In the end, while no final decision came through, drone operators felt confident in the legal arguments made and are anxiously awaiting the final word.

View attachment 19007
It is obvious to me being a resident in Genesee County that there is collusion in the County Government. The Park Commissioner is appointed by the County Commissioners. I ask for my Commissioner’s stance on this issue early this past summer. After receiving no response from Commissioner Ellenburg for a month, I wrote another email accusing her of taking office for her own agenda. That did get a response from her although it was a negative one (what a surprise) in which she stated that she would refer the issue to the Park Commissioner as she had no knowledge of the new park rules or Michigan’s Drone Preemption Statute.

My personal stance in this matter is that I am quite appalled at the audacity of our county government to openly oppose State law. My only hope is that Judge Farah rules in favor of the MCDO keeping our NAS in the hands of the FAA and not every local government and HOA around the country. We need consistent rules nationwide for how we can safely utilize our sUAS aircraft. I have great respect for our LEO’s everywhere and if we have consistent rules everywhere in the US it makes their job that much easier to enforce them.

Come on Genesee County, do the right thing and leave the NAS to the FAA.
 
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Roughly one month after the initial preliminary injunction hearing for the MCDO v Genesee County case regarding the ability to fly drones in the Genesee County Public Parks, drone operators once again filed into a Flint, Michigan courtroom. MCDO, short for Michigan Coalition of Drone Operators, have been seeking for the District court to disallow Genesee County from enforcing an ordinance that effectively bans use in their county parks. They site that Michigan’s Public Act 436 of 2016 expressly disallows local governments (political subdivisions) from creating or enforcing their own drone ordinances per MCL 259.305 establishing state preemption. The county has attempted to defend that the State of Michigan’s law doesn’t apply to them and argues that drones are too noisy and startling and need to be excluded from their parks. Judge Joseph Farah is presiding over the arguments and tasked with what will be a landmark decision on Michigan’s UAS preemption law.

Today’s hearing at the Genesee County Courthouse focused on testimony and evidence provided by Jason Harrison, the President of MCDO who was detained by Genesee County Parks and Recreation officers in December of 2018 for flying a drone at one of the parks. Harrison, a Part 107 certified operator, walked though and detailed his detainment, the attempts to educate the Genesee County Parks Commission (GCPC) on drone use and the Michigan state preemption law, and offered up his understanding of how the GCPC changed the original manned aircraft ordinance to include “drones” after the county prosecutor refused to levy legal action after the detainment incident with the suggestion that flying a drone wasn’t against the original regulation. MCDO attorney Dean Greenblatt methodically walked through a binder full of exhibits offered for evidence with Mr. Harrison testifying as counsel for Genesee County routinely objected and most often overruled.

In defense, the attorney for Genesee County narrowed her focus upon three main concepts. In cross examination of Mr. Harrison she was keen to determine how loud drones were, asking about the noise levels of various sizes and styles of drones. She then turned towards a drone “fly-in” protest organized by Mr. Harrison and other members of MCDO. The fly-in, per her suggestions, was unlawful as it did not have a special group park use permit, making the argument that the roughly dozen attendees would constitute the need for a permit that was never sought. And counsel finally zeroed in on whether or not Mr. Harrison had ever flown with commercial intent in the Genesee County Parks offering up that any commercial use of the parks – even a photographer taking family or senior portraits in the parks – would require a $75 per day use permit.

With the approach of 5pm, Judge Farah noted that a final decision could not be made immediately but that no further oral arguments would be heard for the case. Instead a strict 10 day period for the filing of amended briefs would be tendered to both plaintiff and defense with a written court decision following shortly after. With that the court recessed and parties departed.

The hearing was well attended by drone operators. Fourteen drone operators from around the state came out to support the lawsuit, many donning identical drone ties. Mr. Harrison’s parents also were in attendance to listen to their son’s testimony. Michigan is one of 17 states that have state laws with the same or highly similar preemption language that disallow local governments from creating a patchwork of drone ordinances. The ruling in this case would set a precedent for the State of Michigan on the legality of the preemption clause. If affirmed, it is reasonable to assume that the 33 other states in the nation would be likely to pass similar state law, a move that many drone operators state is necessary to ensure a consistent framework of legal operation. The FAA themselves have publicly argued that localities should not create their own ordinances as doing such actually endangers the national airspace. In the end, while no final decision came through, drone operators felt confident in the legal arguments made and are anxiously awaiting the final word.

View attachment 19007
Thanks for the info!!

It surprises me that even the states want to regulate NAS, regardless of FAA rules.
 

DoomMeister

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Thanks for the info!!

It surprises me that even the states want to regulate NAS, regardless of FAA rules.
Michigan’s preemption law is basically protecting the FAA’s rule of NAS from being over regulated by all the little factions that want to exert their own little spin on things (too noisy, privacy, trespass, we just don’t like drones, etc ).

The County Park system is just being belligerent in this matter. I can see limiting low level use in the Formar Nature Preserve and Arboretum and away from Crossroads Village (a mock late 1800’s village) to maintain an air of authenticity. The rest of park property should be no problem what so ever.

I can only hope that Judge Farah exerts the good judgement in this matter that he has shown in the past on others. The County Commissioners and the Park Board need to bring their thinking into the 21st century.
 
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For those following the drone case in genesee county Michigan, they were granted a small victory today:

“Genesee County is enjoined from enforcing any ordinance involving the operation and/or the use of drones in The Mounds Off Road Vehicle Area....Thursday November 28, 2019 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m....”


76930483_10158006075162268_3775580285328949248_o.jpg


There is a big event at this location during this time that drone operators wanted to participate in. The Honorable Judge was kind enough to issue this order, even though the court has yet to make a final determination on the case.
 

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This is a good sign of what may be coming. Judge Farah is citing the State of Michigan Drone Preemption law for this special case until he makes his final decision. So far the County has only presented alarmist type arguments in court, so things are looking up for the MCDO up to this point.
 
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quick summary of today's victory:

After more than a year in the making, the challenge to Genesee County’s drone ordinance has resulted in a huge win for drone operators. Genesee County Parks may no longer enforce their ordinance that disallowed the use or possession of drones. Today, Judge Joseph Farah granted a permanent injunction that was sought out by a coalition of drone operators in Michigan after one of their own, Jason Harrison, was handcuffed, detained, and had both his drone and all electronics confiscated for legally flying in a Genesee County park back in December of 2018.

The drone operators formed the MCDO (Michigan Coalition of Drone Operators) and brought suit against the county regarding their ordinance. Michigan law specifically prohibits local government from creating or enforcing their own drone ordinance in MCL 259.205 which is part of Act 436 passed in 2016 that covers unmanned aerial vehicles. Genesee County had attempted to argue that they were exempted from the state law. Hearings held back in October and November looked deeply into both the county’s interest to restrict drones and into the wording of the state law preempting the county’s ordinance.
A very short one day respite from the ordinance was imposed by Judge Farah covering a few hours on Thanksgiving Day of 2019 for an event called Moundsgiving where off road vehicles flock to a park called the Mounds within the Genesee County parks system. The county was enjoined from barring drone operators from flying to catch all the action of the event provided that they follow FAA regulations. Despite that order parks police did still make an initial attempt to enforce the park ban and confronted Ryan Latourette and Jason Bates, both members of MCDO. After showing the officers the temporary injunction operators continued to fly without further incident.
Now nearly three months after hearings on the lawsuit completed the decision is final. The State law specifically preempting all local ordinance on drones was found to be the rule of law. It is so ordered that local subdivisions may not create or enforce their own drone ordinances in the State of Michigan due to state law MCL 259.305. A total of 17 states across the nation have the same or very similarly worded state preemption law. While this case sets precedent only for the State of Michigan, it creates a very distinct signal that localities in other states with the preemption clause could find themselves in legal trouble attempting to enforce it. And the hope now is for the other 33 states to take up legislation to pass state preemption language similar to Michigan to ensure that there isn’t a patchwork of drone ordinances that endanger the national airspace (as was previously warned by the FAA). This day is a huge celebration for the rule of law and legal drone operations.
 

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Thank you Honorable Judge Farah for your diligence in this matter and 🎆Congratulations🎆 to MCDO on the legal victory gained!!!
 

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Are there any consolidated documents, or links to all of this.....that could be made available to all of us? In case anyone faces a similar situation, it would be very handy to provide your lawyer with all of this precedent information.

Perhaps a sticky post, in the appropriate forum.....populated with attractive meta tags, keywords, titles and links by the admins, to attract Google’s spiders so it’ll rank in searches.

BTW - What are the 17 states with Preemption Laws?
 
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Michigan and Florida are two of them.
 
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Are there any consolidated documents, or links to all of this.....that could be made available to all of us? In case anyone faces a similar situation, it would be very handy to provide your lawyer with all of this precedent information.

Perhaps a sticky post, in the appropriate forum.....populated with attractive meta tags, keywords, titles and links by the admins, to attract Google’s spiders so it’ll rank in searches.

BTW - What are the 17 states with Preemption Laws?
Ryan J. Latourette said there is more info to come. When I really don't know but if and when he posts more I will try to relay it here.
 
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The Genesee County victory was not the end of the story. Just in... Showing an interest in contempt of court the County just put forward new drone restrictions. The parks they are placing in the "no fly zone" are within 5 miles of an airport. These locations are all in LAANC 400' ceiling grid squares (Class C and Class E2 areas). There will be drones flying in all these parks in the next few days (some within the hour).
84979094_10222318156006219_9045018765359579136_o.jpg
 

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Saw where Robert posted this in the other forum. I’m writing my County Commissioner tomorrow to demand an explanation for the actions of the Park Board. I know one Commissioner that I won’t be voting for the next time her position is up for election.
 
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