ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan applauds the decision by 15th District Court Judge Elizabeth Pollard Hines to drop all charges against Ann Arbor businesswoman Anuja Rajendra, who was charged with a crime for misrepresenting herself in campaign literature in a state senate race this past election. Even though Ms. Rajendra ran on a platform of being a political newcomer who offered a fresh point of view in Lansing, the prosecutor accused her of trying to convey that she was an incumbent..
“Though I am disappointed that these charges were ever brought, I am relieved that the judge had the wisdom to dismiss them,” said Anuja Rajendra. “I stepped forward to run for office because I believe in public service, and in the democratic process. To be charged with a crime has not only been hard on myself and my family, but sets a dangerous precedent that may well discourage others from running for office.”
Ms. Rajendra came in third place last summer in the Democratic primary for the 18th District Senate seat. Nonetheless, she was charged in October, and had faced 90 days in jail, for stating in a mailer, “As a mom of four and as your State Senator, I want my kids and all kids in Michigan to have the same opportunity for quality education and success.” Ms. Rajendra was charged under a state law that makes it a crime to “give the impression that a candidate for public office is the incumbent” when he or she is not. The ACLU of Michigan represented Ms. Rajendra, arguing that the state law violates the First Amendment by singling out and criminalizing constitutionally protected political speech.
“Although we are grateful that the judge agreed to dismiss the charges against Ms. Rajendra, these charges never should have been brought in the first place,” said Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director. “Ms. Rajendra should be praised, not prosecuted, for having the courage to run for office.”
In addition to Steinberg, Rajendra was represented by ACLU Cooperating Attorneys John Shea, David Blanchard and Frances Hollander.
Watch our legal team speak on Facebook after Rajendra's hearing Thursday morning outside of 15th District Court in Washtenaw County.