Judge considers next step, stops ‘bleeding’ of Detroit bankruptcy mediation documents by Flint Water prosecutors
FLINT, MI – A federal bankruptcy court judge said he plans to issue an order this week on a motion to sanction the Michigan Attorney General’s Department for distributing confidential documents related to the bankruptcy mediation of Detroit in 2013 to attorneys for those accused of crimes related to the Flint Water Crisis.
Justice Thomas J. Tucker heard arguments on the request from lawyers for former Governor Rick Snyder and the Attorney General in a telephone hearing on Wednesday, June 16, and said his order will include a directive prohibiting further disclosure. files and a decision on the need to continue the procedure.
Snyder, who faces two criminal charges of willful breach of duty over the water crisis, filed a petition in U.S. bankruptcy court in Detroit in May, seeking an evidentiary hearing, legal fees and an order holding the attorney general’s office and individuals responsible for “this inappropriate disclosure of information in defiance of the mediation and confidentiality orders of the bankruptcy court.”
The orders were originally issued during Detroit bankruptcy mediation, which aimed to resolve disputes through confidential negotiations led by a neutral facilitator.
The attorney general’s office argued that Snyder lacked standing to file the petition, that he had taken precautions to protect sensitive information related to mediation in the Detroit bankruptcy, and asked the judge to change the court order for mediation to bind parties in Flint’s water cases. disclose the bankruptcy documents they have received.
Tucker said his written order would bar the attorney general from releasing more mediation-related documents related to the Detroit bankruptcy.
“I want to stop the bleeding while” the matter is under advisement, the judge said Wednesday.
Lawyers involved in Wednesday’s hearing said prosecutors for Flint Waters from the Attorney General’s Office obtained documents related to the Detroit bankruptcy when they served a search warrant in May 2019 on the other side. of a “wall of conflict” within the Ministry of the Attorney General.
Although the Flint Water attorneys are part of the Attorney General’s office, they are “walls” of other attorneys in the office who have represented other state employees and offices during the water crisis or who currently represent the office. State against civil lawsuits related to Flint.
In addition to information relating to the Detroit bankruptcy, which occurred while Snyder was governor, the search warrant resulted in the seizure of state-owned mobile devices and other electronic data from former officials, including Snyder, in storage. , his senior advisor Richard Baird, and former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Nick Lyon.
Snyder, Baird and Lyon are among nine current and former employees of the State and City of Flint who face criminal charges related to the water crisis.
Snyder’s legal team criticized the criminal investigation into Flint’s water led by Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County District Attorney Kym Worthy, including their decision not to use a special “contamination” team or “filter” during their investigation.
A “contamination team” is a team of prosecutors and officers unrelated to a criminal investigation who examines seized documents to determine if the information is privileged before it is disclosed by way of discovery. .
“There was a massive breach of confidentiality (in this case)… It was not an innocent mistake,” Snyder’s attorney, Charles Ash, told Judge on Wednesday.
Ash said tens of thousands of privileged documents, including the “entire mailbox” of former Detroit Emergency Manager Kevin Orr, have been turned over to attorneys for the nine defendants.
John D. VanDeventer, who represented the attorney general at Wednesday’s hearing, said water prosecutors halted the release of documents obtained through the May 2019 search warrant after Snyder’s lawyers requested the sanction against them in bankruptcy court.
Lawyers for Snyder and the Attorney General said this week in Genesee District Court that around 4 million documents have been disclosed by prosecutors in Flint Water through an investigation into the criminal proceedings. They said there were still around 17 million more documents expected to be released.
Learn more about MLive:
Flint Water prosecutors released confidential information, Snyder lawyers say
Flint Water investigators sign search warrants at two state offices
Snyder’s lawyer says grand jury evidence against former governor could be ‘tainted’