Monday, April 19, 2010

Free Electricity May Become A Right In Michigan, As Long As You're "Disadvantaged"

So I'm in court on a motion in Detroit, patiently waiting my turn to be heard. Simple motion, when my turn comes my motion is granted and life is good.

Ahead of me on the docket is an interesting case.

A lady is suing DTE in pro per, claiming that under the Americans with Disabilities Act she's entitled to free electricity for her claimed disability. She claims she needs electricity as she claims she uses some machine to help her breathe a few times a day, and she has yet to provide any medical evidence of her disability. The machine of course wasn't in court and she seemed reasonably capable in court with no problems speaking, or breathing for that matter.

Apparently DTE shut the power off because she owes over 3 grand in unpaid electricity bills. She bought a generator to run her machine and she's suing for over $250k in punitive damages and for the electricity to be turned back on and provided to her for free.

The Judge of course is very solicitous of pro per defendants and bends over backwards to help them even when they're way over their head and not making cognizable or rational claims.

The judge first wants to know why the lady has yet to get a pro bono lawyer. Most people in the courtroom wonders why she doesn't get a job or pay for her electricity herself rather than expecting other DTE customers to subsidize it for her.

Apparently she can't get one from the U of D clinic as they only serve people over age 50 in need of a lawyer. The judge finds it a bit humorous that a person claiming a disability can be discriminated against based on age for legal services from a law school clinic.

Of course, why this person who can apparently afford to buy a generator that sufficiently runs this machine and needs electricity on occasion to run an appliance has run up over 3 grand in electric bills is yet to be explained, that's a lot of electricity or a very long time to not pay for it already. Indeed, she's dressed rather well for court and a guy with her is similarly dressed to the nines in a flashy suit and earring.

Perhaps the ADA does provide free electricity from a utility for the disabled but I haven't heard of such a section of it to date. I'm sure the utilities also have programs for reduced rates or free power for the destitute. Of course, this helps explain why DTE's rates keep going up as paying subscribers have to carry the load of those who get it for free.

Heck, low-income Michiganians already get free cell phones, why not all you-can-power free electricity too? Next up, free Internet. Pretty soon the benefits for those not working will make working a sucker's bet, much as it seems to be the case already in once-great Britain, where a family on the dole can get £815-a-week in state handouts. Michigan it seems, isn't far behind in following the Brits' example.

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