CHICAGO - A Wayne County Circuit Court judge yesterday ruled that the Detroit City Council lacks the power under the city charter to begin hearings aimed at removing Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick - a rare court victory for the city's leader, who faces two criminal trials.

The council had hoped for a favorable ruling from Judge Robert Ziolkowski that would pave the way for the start of forfeiture hearings. But the judge ruled that the language in the city's charter is too vague with respect to the council's powers to allow for such action. The council's attorneys are expected to appeal the ruling.

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