“Star Chamber Comeback”: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel Loses Flint Water Cases in Spectacular Fashion

Attorney General Dana Nessel has lost the Flint case in spectacular fashion this week. Over six years ago, I wrote earlier about misgivings over the prosecutions but Nessel’s office created new challenges for the prosecution. In an unanimous 6-0 ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court held that her office committed a fatal and inexplicable error in prosecuting nine officials for the Flint water crisis, including former Gov. Rick Snyder. The court ruled that prosecutors doomed the case when they decided to bypass the conventional grand jury system in favor of a single judge to indict the officials. Now the cases have been tossed out.

While the one-judge grand jury approach can be used to investigate a crime in secret, it cannot be used to indict an individual. Three years ago, Nessel’s office dismissed Flint water charges brought by the Democrat’s predecessor, Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette. Nessel then restarted the prosecutions anew but ignored statutes that clearly do not allow the use of a single judge to issue indictments.

In order to restart the process for a third time, prosecutors would have to establish the basis for indictments more than eight years after the water crisis.

It is not clear if future prosecutions might run afoul of the six year statute of limitations for most crimes. It can go up to 10 yeas for felonies like manslaughter, which were the charges brought against two defendants.

The opinion written by Chief Justice Bridget McCormack slammed Nessel’s office by noting that the need for a grand jury for such charges was an “unchallenged assumption, until now.”  Chief Justice McCormack referred to the attorney general office’s use of a one-judge grand jury as a “Star Chamber comeback.” She noted that “[t]o this day, the defendants do not know what evidence the prosecution presented to convince the grand jury (i.e., juror) to charge them.”

Justice Richard Bernstein wrote a scathing concurrence that “… there would be little credibility to a criminal process that purports to strike a fair balance between adversaries if the guarantees underpinning that criminal process —such as the statutory right to a preliminary examination — could be done away with at the whims of the prosecution.” He added “[t]he prosecution cannot cut corners — here, by not allowing defendants a preliminary examination as statutorily guaranteed — in order to prosecute defendants more efficiently.”

While popular with many in the media, Nessel has had a controversial record, including statements on issues from the election fraud to transgender teachers that have drawn criticism from conservatives. Yet, this opinion reveals sheer incompetence by her office in one of the most important cases in years. It is not clear that her office can fully prosecute these cases at this late date after the damage done by Nessel’s office.

Nessel is running for reelection.

52 thoughts on ““Star Chamber Comeback”: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel Loses Flint Water Cases in Spectacular Fashion”

  1. One of the sure signs of a tottering democracy is that an incoming government uses the criminal law against its predecessor. This has never happened in Michigan before. It has been said that Nessel’s charges against Snyder: “[s]tem from the decision to switch the water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River in 2014 as a cost-cutting measure without properly assessing the potential impact on residents’ health.” [Wikipedia article at note 308.] Can you imagine where this standard would lead if applied to government officials generally? Consider the effect of CAFE standards which may cost up to 4000 lives a year. [see https://cei.org/opeds_articles/death-by-caution-fuel-economy-standards-cost-lives/%5D Consider the severe COVID lockdown (favored by Nessel incidentally) which may have caused lasting emotional and intellectual damage to school children. Consider the efforts of some health officials, who shall remain nameless, to finance gain-of-function research. People in government make one mistake after another. Only someone likes Nessel turns this folly into a crime.

    1. She is probably looking for a job on the Democrat Jan 6 show trials against Trump. Done in the same spirit. Only present Prosecutor opinion, no cross-examination, no expert experts commenting, no discovery of information, no objections – just the Prosecutor as Judge, Jury and Executioner. How very Democrat of her – knowing she had no case, to act with a corrupt crony Judge to circumvent legally required due process.

  2. Nessel is the new breed of Democrat.

    The New Democrat arrests opponents, uses strongarm tactics that break the formerly sacrosanct norms.

    The New Democrat wants to end the filibuster when in the majority and not when in the minority.

    The New Democrat sees a 6-3 Court and wants to add (miraculously) 4 new justices.

    The New Democrats create a committee and won’t allow the minority party to name their own members. This is just the logical progression from the atrocity that Adam Schiff presided over during the first impeachment.

    The New Democrats want to ban speech on sites that are basically the public square.

    The New Democrats want to take away any due process an 18 year old boy has on campus.

    The New Democrats want to force you to get a vaccine as they chant “my body, my choice”.

    The New Democrats want to cause financial ruin for the middle class to force everyone to get off of fossil fuels decades before it is possible.

    The New Democrats want drag queens in every classroom…for some reason.

    The New Democrats went from gay marriage, which I supported before Obama, Clinton and Joe Biden, to a guy playing against your daughter in sports.

    The New Democrats went from Obama saying you need a secure border and English as the official language to a wide open border.

    The New Democrats went from being the party of the cop on the street to Defund the Police.

    ****The New Democrats will find out in 4 months that they are the New Minority Party.

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