Detroit gets 35 days to develop plan for lawsuits

DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge has issued an order giving Detroit officials 35 days to develop and present a plan to settle lawsuits that were pending before the city filed for bankruptcy protection.

The order last week from Judge Steven Rhodes would allow a lawsuit by the mother of a slain police officer to move forward at the end of the 35-day period unless the city’s plan was approved or a time extension granted.

Dozens of unsettled lawsuits against the city automatically were put on hold July 18 when Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr filed the bankruptcy petition.

Deborah Ryan’s lawsuit against the city and two police officials was filed in March 2011.

Ryan’s daughter, Patricia Williams, was shot to death in 2009 outside a library in nearby Canton Township by her estranged husband, Edward Williams, who also killed himself.

Both were Detroit police officers who lived in the suburb west of the city.

In a motion asking Rhodes to allow a district court judge to move forward on the lawsuit, attorneys for Ryan claimed that actions were taken by Detroit police that prevented Edward Williams from “being arrested, detained or even evaluated by a psychiatrist” before the murder-suicide.

Patricia Williams went to Canton police three days before her slaying to report an assault. She said she and her husband were officers, but she declined to give names, fearing her husband could be punished at work.

Relief from the automatic stay “will be immediately effective for the purpose of allowing Ryan to proceed with the liquidation of her claim” if the city is not granted an extension or if “an efficient” plan to settle all of the lawsuits is not approved, Rhodes wrote.

The automatic stay in Ryan’s suit will remain in effect if either motion is filed within 35 days, he added.

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