The Michigan Supreme Court narrowly determined in a 4-3 decision the Independent Redistricting Committee must make public any documents or recordings about a secret session the group held in late October.
The committee’s failure to do so thus far violates the state constitution, reads the majority opinion of the Supreme Court justices, issued Monday. The majority was comprised of David Viviano, Brian Zahra, Elizabeth Clement and Richard Bernstein.
The lawsuit was filed by The Detroit News, Bridge Michigan, the Detroit Free Press and the Michigan Press Association. The suit was prompted by an Oct. 27 Redistricting Commission session closed to the public. According to The Detroit News, the commission discussed two memos, "Voting Rights Act" and "The History of Discrimination in the State of Michigan and Its Influence on Voting."
The Supreme Court rendered its opinion two weeks after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also said the committee was required to release any information pertaining to the secret meeting.
The Redistricting Committee has been defending its secret meeting, citing attorney-client privilege. In a letter, attorneys for the MIRC stated: ““Making confidential, privileged materials available now also is likely to result in a future claim that this release constitutes a waiver of the Commission’s attorney-client privilege beyond the documents released.”
Michigan Freedom Fund Executive Director Tori Sachs noted the Michigan Supreme Court decision upholds the state’s Constitution by requiring the MIRC to publicly release legal memos and recordings of the secret session.
“The Redistricting Commission broke the law to hide its work from Michigan voters,” Sachs said in a statement. “The Supreme Court declared today that commissioners won’t get away with it. The first step towards restoring the integrity of the map-drawing process is for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson or Chair Rebecca Szetela to immediately release the memos and secret recordings they tried to hide from the public.”
Sachs continued: “There must be consequences for violating the law. Accountability won’t happen until the Commission fires and replaces the attorneys who told them to illegally hide their work from the public.”
Eric Ventimiglia, executive director for Michigan Rising Action, concurred with Sach’s assessment.
“Michigan’s Constitution clearly states that all business must be conducted in public, not behind closed doors,” Ventimiglia said. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and today’s ruling will cast a bright light on the Commission’s botched process and lack of transparency.”