Judge says lawmakers violated Open Meetings Act during gun reform hearings, but dismisses suit

By: - November 17, 2023 6:46 pm

Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi), chair of the Michigan House Judiciary Committee, listens during the committee’s March 1, 2023 hearing on gun reform legislation. | Photo by Anna Gustafson

A Michigan Court of Claims judge has issued an opinion saying the Michigan House violated the Open Meetings Act while committees heard testimony on several gun reform bills earlier this year.

Great Lakes Gun Rights and Michigan Open Carry filed a lawsuit in April in an attempt to halt mandatory background checks for the purchase of firearms, amongst other procedures following the deadly shooting on Michigan State University’s campus on Feb. 13.

The lawsuit outlined accusations that the state House and Senate willfully violated the First and 14th Amendment rights by not extending opportunities for the groups to offer testimony on the bills during committee hearings earlier this year.

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The lawsuit aimed to get injunctive relief against the Legislature and force compliance with the Open Meetings Act.

Court of Claims Judge James Robert Redford ruled in a final order closing the case that there wasn’t evidence that either chamber willfully limited opportunities to provide testimony as they allowed multiple days for some hearings and the ability to submit written testimony, He said an injunction is not appropriate.

However, Redford did find that the House violated the Open Meetings Act by not failing to have clear set out rules that were enforced for outlining who gets to testify in-person and for how long.

Redford added that “there is no evidence that the House will not act with due dispatch in remedying these violations once they have been pointed out by this Court.”

Brenden Boudreau of Great Lakes Gun Rights said in a statement Friday, “The Legislature’s knee-jerk and illegal actions show that they know what we know:  The truth does not support their agenda, which is why they had to prevent it from coming out.”

State Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi) who chairs the House Judiciary Committee that heard the bills, said all forms of testimony are reflected on the record, but she is taking the judge’s assessment under review.

“It is important that both sides of any issue can participate in that process. While the court dismissed this lawsuit, I take seriously their recommendation that the House adopt more formal policies around making clear the process for participation by residents and I will be working to adopt my own rules for the committee in the new year,” Breen said.


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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.