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.

Kilpatrick initiated the litigation in an attempt to stop the council from holding the hearings, arguing that the charter permits such a move only if the mayor is convicted of a felony or lacks qualifications to remain in office. The council believed it held such authority based on a provision that says the mayor can be the subject of forfeiture hearings for violating any portion of the charter punishable by expulsion from office. Kilpatrick's attorneys argued that no such language exists tying violations to a punishment of forfeiture.

The council believes the mayor violated the charter by failing to fully disclose terms reached in a settlement agreement approved by the council resolving a civil whistleblower's case. Kilpatrick faces felony perjury and misconduct charges, filed by the local district attorney against him and his former chief of staff Christine Beatty, stemming from their testimony in the whistleblower trial, the firing of three police officers, and an $8.4 million settlement.

Kilpatrick also faces two new felony assault charges announced earlier this month by state Attorney General Mike Cox stemming from allegations that Kilpatrick shoved a Wayne County enforcement official as the official attempted to serve the mayor with a subpoena last month.

Kilpatrick faces calls for his resignation from local elected officials and the public and pressure is mounting on Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to proceed with a Sept. 3 hearing on whether to remove Kilpatrick from office.

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