May 26, 2020

The Sixth Circuit has said that former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other public officials must face allegations that they violated the constitutional rights of a proposed class of Flint, Michigan, residents because they were indifferent to the harm caused by the city's lead water crisis.

A court majority said Friday that residents who can "expect to see their children permanently developmentally stunted" can pursue allegations against officials they say are responsible for the crisis, for prolonging it and for lying about it.

The majority said Snyder and other public officials could not claim qualified immunity because they allegedly violated the residents' bodily integrity, a protected constitutional right, and did so with "deliberate indifference." One judge disagreed in part and said Snyder and former State Treasurer Andy Dillon were immune. 

U.S. Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore, writing for the majority, largely agreed with a lower court and said Flint officials, state officials and former elected leaders acted in a way that "shocked the conscience." The majority also asked the lower court to decide whether Dillon should be dismissed from the case since he was not in office at the time of a key event. The panel also rejected sovereign immunity arguments by Flint and the state's current governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who are being sued in their official capacity.

Theodore Leopold of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, an attorney for the residents, praised the outcome.

"We hope and believe this latest opinion is another step forward for providing a full measure of justice for the Flint community," Leopold told Law360 Tuesday.

The complete article can be accessed here.