SCOTUS Denies Flint Officials' Appeal

United States Supreme Court Building in Washington DC, USA.
By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 24, 2019 3:00 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away officials from Flint, Michigan, who are facing civil suits for their part in contaminating the water supply there.

The officials wanted to block lower court rulings that allowed residents to sue over their injuries from lead poisoning. Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied their petition without comment.

It was more bad news in one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history. The officials got some good news from another source, however. Federal prosecutors decided to drop criminal charges against them.

More Bad News

In the civil case by Shari Guertin, officials had argued they should be immune from liability. Guertin alleges she and her minor daughter suffered injuries from drinking and bathing in the contaminated water. A trial judge said the officials had to answer the complaint, but they appealed.

However, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Court said they created the environmental disaster and then "intentionally attempted to cover up their grievous decision." Now that the Supreme Court has turned the officials away, the trial proceedings will resume.

It wasn't the first time the Supreme Court has ruled against Flint officials over the disaster. Last year, the justices opened the way for two class-actions against them.

The problems started in 2014, when Flint switched its public water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. The polluted river water caused lead to leach from pipes.

Some Good News

Eight former state and city officials, including Michigan’s chief medical officer, faced criminal charges for their roles in the water crisis. At least 70 people were sickened by the pollution, and 12 died.

Prosecutors dropped the charges, however, saying underlying investigations were "flawed." In a statement, Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said they need a more thorough investigation before proceeding.

“Dismissing these cases allows us to move forward according to the non-negotiable requirements of a thorough, methodical and ethical investigation," they said.

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