Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Michigan Congressional Democrats Call On DOJ To Review Decision To Block Flint From Suing The State

Michigan – U.S. House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) and Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) today led a letter signed by every Democratic House member of Michigan’s congressional delegation, calling for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the State of Michigan’s actions to block the City of Flint from suing the State in connection with the Flint Water Crisis.

As stated in the letter, in March 2016, the City of Flint filed a notice of intent to sue the State. Just a week later, the Governor-appointed Receivership Transition Advisory Board (RTAB) issued a recommendation requiring that it approve the initiation of any litigation by Flint, which was approved by the state treasurer.  The letter raises concerns about the lawfulness of Michigan’s actions and requests the Department of Justice to review whether denying the City of Flint the ability to seek legal redress from the State implicates constitutional due process, equal protection and associated environmental justice issues for the people of Flint.

In their letter, the Members wrote, “First, we are concerned that the state-appointed RTAB’s potentially unauthorized action to restrain Flint’s authority to initiate litigation and its apparent failure to adequately notify the City of the import of its actions may have deprived the City of Flint and its residents of constitutionally protected due process…Given the fact that Flint is a majority African American municipality, the denial of the City’s right to obtain judicial redress may therefore implicate the Equal Protection Clause…Third, we are concerned that the actions of the State may have violated principles of environmental justice, which are premised on notions of Equal Protection.”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Much remains to be done in the pursuit of justice for Flint residents and to ensure no other community suffers from the actions of unaccountable political appointees that they did not elect,” said Congressman Conyers. “The people of Flint must have their rightfully deserved access to legal redress, due process, equal protection under the law and associated environmental justice. I urge DOJ to thoroughly review actions by Governor Snyder and the Michigan Receivership Transition Advisory Board against the people of Flint. I will continue to monitor the situation in Flint in the months and years ahead.”

“The state of Michigan should focus on bringing clean drinking water to the people of Flint, not maneuvering to prevent them from accessing the judicial system,” said Congressman Kildee. “Our letter asks the Department of Justice to investigate the constitutional and environmental justice issues implicated by the State’s decision to effectively prevent the city of Flint from suing the state. Quite simply, this is wrong.”

The letter to DOJ was signed by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), Congressman Sandy Levin (MI-09), Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14).

In March, Congressman Conyers introduced H.R. 4754, the Emergency Financial Manager Reform Act of 2016, to address unchecked decision-making powers that appointed emergency financial managers have in financially distressed cities which cause situations like the Flint Water Crisis.

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