by Scott McClallen
The taxpayer cost of the 2014 Flint water crisis litigation might grow to as much as $90 million after the Michigan Supreme Court rejected Attorney General Dana Nessel’s appeal of a decision that she must use a “taint team” to separate legal documents.
The court said justices were “not persuaded that the question presented should be reviewed by this Court.”
Nessel tried to appeal a ruling from 7th Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Kelly that halted lawsuit discovery until Nessel enacted a taint team to review the documents before given to attorneys.
A taint team is independent team to separate legal documents to ensure the defense doesn’t find documents protected by client-attorney privilege.
The nine charged were former Gov. Rick Snyder, former Health Department Manager Nancy Peeler and Snyder advisor Richard L Baird, former state health director Nicolas Lyon, and others.
Nessel estimated that an independent review of anywhere between one million and 17 million documents might take years.
“If 1 million, a team of 30 attorneys could accomplish the task in just over 5 months at a cost of approximately $2,200,000. If 17 million, it could take the same team just over 7.3 years and cost upwards of $37,000,000,” Nessel wrote in her appeal.
Those charged say a taint team must review and separate documents, some of which were confidential communication between lawyers and defendants in a separate lawsuit.
The ruling is another blow to the Flint trial following a June ruling that a judge wrongly indicted multiple public officials related to the Flint crisis by using a one-man jury.
The state’s investigation leaders, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, said the order was expected.
“The decision from the Supreme Court was not unexpected and does not alter the prosecution’s course of action moving forward in vigorously pursuing the crimes committed against the people of Flint,” Worthy and Hammoud said in a statement.
The Detroit News estimated that the trial had cost $53 million since 2016.
The Flint water crisis began in 2014 when health officials switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure. The water wasn’t treated for corrosion control, resulting in lead and other contaminants leached into the drinking water, which supplied roughly 100,000 people.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.