Michigan Supreme Court won’t hear appeals in Flint water crisis cases

By: - September 20, 2023 5:30 pm

Protestors hold signs and listen as Dave McKellar speaks about the troubles facing Flint at a rally on January 24, 2016 at Flint City Hall in Flint, Michigan. | Brett Carlsen, Getty Images

The Michigan Supreme court will not hear appeals to the lower courts’ decisions to dismiss criminal charges against key figures in the Flint Water Crisis prosecution, including the state health director at the time.

Nine officials in Michigan, including former Gov. Rick Snyder, were charged in 2021, in connection to the Flint water crisis that killed 12 people and left thousands of residents with lead-contaminated drinking water during the Republican’s tenure.

While some officials who had their cases dismissed faced felonies, such as misconduct of office, like in the case of Snyder senior adviser Richard Baird, other officials, like the state children’s health department official at the time Nancy Peeler, faced felonies including involuntary manslaughter.

The Supreme Court orders denying consideration for seven of the originally charged officials who have had their cases dismissed by lower courts each read, “we are not persuaded that the question presented should be reviewed by this Court.”

Federal judge drops Flint water crisis charges against Snyder

The state attorney general’s office, which brought the charges, issued a statement Wednesday from its team on the case.

“The Flint Water Crisis was not caused by an act of nature,” the Flint Water Prosecution Team said in the release. “It resulted from the direct actions of a small group of people in power who chose financial savings for the State over the health of Flint residents, and then conspired to hide the truth from the public. We are deeply disappointed in the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling.” 

Other officials whose cases the Supreme Court decided Wednesday not to hear include former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nicolas Lyon, former chief medical executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Eden Wells, Snyder senior aide Jarrod Agen and Flint Emergency Managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley.

In June 2022, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ruled that because the attorney general’s office utilized a one-person grand jury to indict the nine defendants, the indictments were invalid.

A one-person grand jury allows a judge to act as a one-person jury to review evidence, which is then not shared with the public.

The release from the attorney general’s office Wednesday said the one-man grand jury process it used in prosecution is not uncommon and has been used all over the state resulting “in thousands of prosecutions and convictions.” 

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley gave a statement in the release saying today marks another injustice in a list of indignities suffered by the people of Flint.

“The Michigan Supreme Court owed it to the people of Flint to let this case be heard. … As we attempt to rebuild trust in government in the aftermath of the Flint Water Crisis, this decision further erodes that sacred trust in a representative government’s ability to serve the people through appropriate checks and balances,” Neeley said. “The powerful men and women in this state, who poisoned the water in our faucets, found a very unfair victory today based on a technicality. This does not mean that they are innocent; only that they will not be held accountable for their crimes.”

The Flint Water Prosecution Team is planning on working with the state Legislature to figure out how the evidence in the case can be legally disseminated to the public “and the people of Flint, who most deserve to know the truth”, the release from the attorney general’s office said.  


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Anna Liz Nichols
Anna Liz Nichols

Anna Liz Nichols covers government and statewide issues, including criminal justice, environmental issues, education and domestic and sexual violence. Anna is a former state government reporter for The Associated Press and most recently was a reporter for the Detroit News. Anna is a graduate of Michigan State University.