“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. It’s hilarious this commenter feels competent enough to comment sanely on the topic of sanity. On a side note: Nessel didn’t handle the prosecution well.

  1. Well, color me surprised that Democrats knowingly poisoned the water of a mostly black neighborhood, using water known at times to be flammable, and avoided being held accountable.

    Everyone who actually made the decisions were Democrats.

    It’s horrifying to think of how this must have affected the children of Flint.

    Years later, many cities still have lead pipes. Just because they’re not piping in polluted water to corrode those pipes doesn’t mean they’re safe. Ask the Romans.

    1. They are 100% not safe, the lack of treatments at the time of the “theft of funds” eroded the coating in the existing pipes. They cannot be recoated so without replacement they’re doomed. Replacing the cities water infrastructure is the only definite remedy for the residents. A poor secondary choice was to add more chemicals to offset the seeping pipes chemical contamination but the offset is prolonged by the degradation of the chemicals. So the layman’s term is add cancer causing chemicals to offset the poisoned water to say we did something to help. SMH these people should be HUNG!

    2. Demonstrably false claim. The cost cutting measure that kicked the whole crisis off was made by an appointee of Gov. Rick Snyder, Republican.

  2. The Michigan Supreme Court is made up of four Democrats and three Republicans. One Republican recused herself, making it 4 Democrats and 2 Republicans who heard the case and exercised their only option.

    I want the Flint water crisis looked into as much as the next person, but this was inept. Inexplicable. Or just a cynical political move in the first place.

    1. Makeup of the Court may explain why Nessel thought she could do this. I guess for even Dem judges some things are a bridge too far

  3. Jonathan TURLEY on June 25 2022 you posted a photo of the late great RBG.
    You need to change it to photo including Amy phoney Barrett the Christo fascist who deserves with her five brothers to live forever with this abomination of a decision.

    1. RBG agreed Roe was an abomination. You should rest well knowing the abortion industry is alive and well in death-cult blue states like California, New Jersey, New York, and Illinois – so the genocide continues.

    2. If you did your homework you’d know RBG was no fan of Roe v Wade and believed it was flawed. But that doesn’t fit your narrative, does it?

  4. “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.”

    Basically the same reason the January 6 investigation is a sham … Democrats today are bed buddies with the fascists of the last decades. And not far from the sans coulettes ….

    1. Highlyeducated, your comment is right on point and very timely. What the Democrats are doing with the Jan 6th Committee is changing justice in our country. Never before has the in party gone after the out party with such legal vengeance after an election. Granted what Trump did and what the rioters did was bad and unique, but when we see arrests of such peripheral figures as Peter Navarro and the wide net of arrests and searches it is obvious a chilling maneuver meant to discourage participation in the process for Republicans.

      For any of the partisan hacks that care not about justice that will now comment that the arrests are fair I only ask for you to give us an example of one, just one Democrat who has gotten this treatment. Before you cite the “end of democracy due to 1/6” please remember to include Roger Stone being arrested by a SWAT team with CNN cameras in attendance. Or Project Veritas, a NEWS organization, getting raided. Or attorneys for the president getting arrested and searched.

      Again, for the slow of logic, Brennan, Clapper, Strozk and McCabe all lied to congress and/or the FBI and yet no raids??? Eric Holder did the exact same thing as Steve Bannon and yet he was not charged…was he?

  5. This Country is in deep trouble. We are losing it when you watch and listen to Democrats. It started when they tried to impeach Trump but failed. So now they have a Sh*t Show trial and its falling apart. Blind hate so bad they can’t see what they are doing to this Country. This isn’t sad any more, ii’s Scary.

  6. Ukraine’s position is like that of a borrower, and NATO’s is like that of a bank: a bank will lend you money when you don’t really need it, but they won’t give you money when you do. Ukraine needs help more than Finland and Sweden do. Ukraine is currently being attacked. Finland and Sweden are not.

    1. Admitting the Finns and swedes to NATO will not prevent aiding Ukraine, but it will reduce the chance that your Russian pals coerce or attack them. Your comment suggests you don’t take out homeowners’ insurance unless you’re on fire or being flooded.

  7. What do you expect from someone who said that every elementary school should have a drag show?

  8. Why should the world sit back and let a nation be destroyed just because it’s not a member of a military alliance? That seems wrong.

  9. Seems to me the tides are turning. Rather than take heed, Liberals (a now perverted term, sorry to the classical folks – your party is dead in 2022, and I used to be one) and Progressives, they just insist on continuing to quadruple down. This isn’t going to work. bullets don’t even have to fly. In the Dem’s sacred ‘democracy’ (which we actually aren’t), the PEOPLE are going to do away with them. In one fell swoop. All I can say is thank God for our Constitution and separation of powers. It’s what we’ve got, but it’s enough. Bringing out Cassidy was probably the final nail in the coffin for the Trump canard. No, Dems, we are not that stupid, and your globalist allies can take their billions and shove them. We just want peaceful lives. And we’ll fight for that. Cracks me up that young Antifa types thought they would bring some kind of anarchic ‘justice’ to rural areas. If ever there were a situation where you’d just end up with buckshot in your behind, and police that will actually arrest you, and courts that will throw the entire book at you . . . sheesh. The coasts have really lost the plot, from raising kids, to passing legislation, to pretty much everything. Good luck with that.

    1. I agree the tides are turning, but maybe not quite the way you are expecting. There is a gradual process happening which I believe had it’s roots in Clinton’s rightward shift after the GOP took over the house in 1994. A trend started to reveal itself with the candidacy and subsequent Presidency of Bush the younger and his ‘compassionate conservatism’ . Mainstream GOP began making a move towards where centrist Dems were, followed by Obama and his efforts to bring in the younger, more extreme leftists to his coalition . Finally, along came Trump with his new GOP type of populism. These disparate trends are leading to schisms in both parties which may result in a 3-way split leaving a small extreme left Progressive group, a new Populist party and a centrist Dem-compassionate conservative GOP hybrid.
      The new battles will be between the progressive and centrists for the deep blue coastal states and between the populists and the centrists for the heartland and parts of the south.
      The question becomes whether the whole thing can hold together through the upheaval.

  10. Margot Ballhere,
    I am surprised those numbers are that low.

    “Is Cassidy Hutchinson the Lt Col Vindman of Jan6 commission?”
    She is worse.
    Her lies were debunked within hours of her testimony. Even MSM sources from NBC, ABC and even CNN debunked her claims.
    I did not think it was possible to discredit the Jan6 committee more, but Hutchinson accomplished exactly that.
    It truly is a clown show.

    Sad part is, we will only hear about the “blockbuster evidence” of Trump lunging for the wheel and assaulting the SS agents (both debunked), and people will believe it.

    Equally sad, is like those Border Patrol agents who were cleared of any wrong doing “whipping” people with horse reins, yet are going to be disciplined with “administrative violations,” Trump will be charged with assaulting SS agents even though they deny it ever happened.
    The Dem party is clearly the party of lawlessness.
    And everyone sees it.

    1. I agree 100% with what you said, however the question is ? What can us deplorable do about it, yes I know vote but I want instant gratification. I want her to pay, I want the Dem part to pay, I want that eye.

      1. Upstatefarmer, Anolesman:
        Be vigilant regarding the coming election! They continue to prove they will go to any and all means and violate all norms.

  11. Could it be a fair and reasonable question to ask if Nessel won her election as AG of Michigan at least partly because she is ‘openly gay.’
    What do you think the chances are for a straight white female to take over the role of Attorney General of Michigan?

  12. New Poll 78% Dimocrates think country headed in the wrong direction.
    87% Republicans think country headed in the wrong direction.

    Is Cassidy Hutchinson the Lt Col Vindman of Jan6 commission?

    1. What is missing from those numbers is a very important breakdown of the Dems’ numbers. I shudder to think how many of those Dems actually think the country is moving too far to the right.

  13. Nessel is a complete failure in every aspect of her office. Nothing but a Democrat tool, to go after every political enemy imagined. I got one, can’t wait to see her humiliated, and tossed out rear end first!

    1. But we know that dimdems will re-elect her. Just as NY will elect Hichul as governor because of the vast unwashed number of dimdems in NYC.

  14. Dear Professor Turley,
    Can you please give us your opinion about the double-tiered justice system we are currently witnessing in America, with the persecution of top Trump attorneys Eastman and Clark?
    Compare and contrast to the treatment of the FBI honchos who illegally spied on Trump and got off Scot free, While some were even rewarded with gigs on CNN and elsewhere!
    As always, we enjoy your political commentary, especially your unique legal viewpoints.

    1. Or Hunter Biden. Or most of the Cabinet members and the President ignoring laws like immigration.

  15. Lefty justice.

    Stack SCOTUS, 1/6 trials, AG Garland, House 1/6 hearings.

    I could go on, but lefties have little respect for justice.

    Lefties are unraveling the fabric of our society.

    Ugly people.

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