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Michigan Attorney General Nessel Recaps Busy 2020

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office has been busy the past 12 months, negotiating historic settlements, filing significant lawsuits, investigating serious threats and protecting consumers from an array of scams and deceptive business practices.  

As 2020 comes to a close, the boisterous election cycle very likely remains fresh in the collective conscious, but other significant events – such as the lawsuit filed against major PFAS manufacturers or the $80 million settlement reached in Doe et al v. Michigan Department of Corrections – also rank among milestone events coming out of the Michigan Department of Attorney General in 2020.  

“This year has been marked by a multitude of actions taken by my office and on behalf of other state departments, and I am extremely proud and grateful for the exemplary work performed by everyone at the Michigan Department of Attorney General,” Nessel said. “While COVID-19 has presented logistical complications and new difficulties in enforcing our laws, my staff has risen to meet those challenges squarely in pursuit of justice on behalf of the people of this state. I am encouraged by the accomplishments we have achieved in 2020 and eagerly anticipate furthering those efforts as we look forward to 2021.”  

A brief round-up of some notable events follows:  

Important Investigations   

Important Settlements  

  • Flint Civil Litigation – The largest settlement in the State of Michigan’s history was submitted to the court for preliminary approval after being announced in August. The State and other defendants have agreed to contribute $641.2 million to settle the litigation that was filed after the city of Flint switched its public water supply to the Flint River in 2014. Judge Judith Levy of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan reviewed the agreement as part of a motion for preliminary approval, and may issue a ruling on whether the settlement meets certain legal standards in January.   
  • Doe et al v Michigan Department of Corrections – An $80 million settlement was announced in February for the class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of current and former youthful prisoners. The juveniles alleged they were victims of sexual assault or various other harms including segregation, while they were housed in the custody of the MDOC after being charged, convicted and sentenced as adults under Michigan law.    
  • Hill v. Whitmer – In conjunction with the Michigan Department of Corrections, the Attorney General’s office settled this class action arising out of the resentencing of juveniles sentenced to mandatory life-without-parole sentences (LWOP) in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama. Under Miller, offenders who were sentenced to LWOP were entitled to a hearing designed to consider their youth at the time of the offense along with other factors to determine if a LWOP was appropriate. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, a LWOP would only be appropriate in the most extreme cases. The Michigan Legislature enacted a series of statutes that provided for specific minimum terms if the trial court did not resentence the offender to a LWOP and also prohibited the application of good time and disciplinary credits. The Hill class challenged the statute prohibiting the application of credits and also sought  programming for those offenders waiting for resentencing and to set a schedule for the Miller hearings to be completed. On Nov. 6, the court approved a settlement that provided for the Hill class members to be eligible for programming, a timeline to notify the trial court that the prosecutors were ready to proceed with the Miller hearings, and for the Attorney General to provide assistance to the local prosecutors in charge of the resentencing hearings.      

Important Lawsuits  

Consumer Protection  

Election Integrity and Safety  

  • Lawsuits – Prior to the election, Attorney General Nessel sued the U.S. Postal Service and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to ensure mail-in ballots were being properly processed and delivered after operational changes instituted by the USPS could have resulted in a significant number of mail-in ballots not being counted. A federal judge stopped those operational changes from continuing, ensuring mail-in ballots would be handled appropriately by the USPS. In defense of the procedures undertaken by Secretary Benson and election officials, Attorney General Nessel’s office helped defend against the numerous legal challenges filed, which made unverified and unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud. While some cases are ongoing, an overwhelming majority have been dismissed, withdrawn or otherwise failed in the courts. In one case, the state of Texas sued Michigan and other battleground states in an attempt to overturn election results. The lawsuit fell short of being heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.   
  • Security – While there were a number of attempts to thwart the will of the people, the Attorney General’s office was ready to defend democracy at every turn. One highlight involves a series of robocalls that targeted Detroit-area voters seeking to intimidate them from participating in the election by use of mail-in ballots. The Attorney General’s office launched an investigation and charged Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl with multiple felonies. They have since been bound over on all four counts and the case remains pending in Wayne County Circuit Court. The Attorney General has also taken action to investigate the few credible reports of fraud received and prosecute those found to have occurred, while also working to investigate threats made to election officials.   
  • Education – Working in tandem with Secretary of State Benson to ensure a safe and secure election, Attorney General Nessel’s office aggressively protected the integrity of the democratic process while informing the public of their voting rights by hosting town hall events, informational calls and more.  

“I am thoroughly impressed and equally grateful for the fair and responsible journalists who have covered these many important topics and, considering the challenging circumstances, have informed their readers and viewers with accurate and reliable information,” Nessel said. “Throughout the ongoing pandemic and turbulent election cycle, many Michigan journalists have been able to sift through the misinformation and disingenuous spin to find the truth, and they have upheld their role as the people’s watchdog.”  

More information about the Michigan Department of Attorney General can be found on its website and by browsing the news releases posted online.  

For more information on specific cases and actions, contact the Attorney General’s media email.  

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Please note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.