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Supreme Court Rules Flint Water Crisis Charges Improperly Handled

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A ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court may lead to all charges dropped in the Flint water crisis.

That includes those against former Governor Rick Snyder. He and eight others were indicted on charges for their roles in the water crisis in January 2021.

Tuesday morning the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the process to get those charges was incorrect and the case needs to start over.

It’s a process that’s been used in Michigan but not very often, a one-man grand jury. It is essentially a judge getting all the information and making the decision themselves, on if an indictment is going to come.

“This was an unanimous decision by the Supreme Court,” said Michael McDaniel, Constitutional law professor at WMU Cooley Law School. “All of them felt that the process used was incorrect.”

It’s been used to keep investigations quiet and free from leaks and corruption, a one man grand jury. It has its uses but the Michigan Supreme Court ruled it was used improperly in the investigation against Snyder and eight others, including his former aide Richard Baird.

“We knew that the one man grand jury, we also called the judicial inquiry statute, has been rarely use because everyone recognizes that it’s not really a fundamentally fair process,” said Anastase Markou, Baird’s attorney.

The biggest issue? That one judge’s opinion skipped the preliminary exam.

“It can be done by citizen’s grand jury, the statute however for a one man grand jury is silent on this process,” said McDaniel.

The Supreme Court, with their democratic majority, ruled unanimously that was wrong.

“It cannot replace, it cannot supplant a preliminary examination,” said McDaniel.

Now what happens is unknown. All charges for all nine defendants could be dropped and the ability for more charges lies in statute of limitations and due process arguments.

“After all the cases are dismissed, what happens is up to the prosecuting attorney, the attorney general,” said Markou, “And whether the law allows them to move forward.”

Markou said if there is a decision to dismiss all charges, it should come in the next 30-60 days.