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Michigan Supreme Court sides with media outlets in redistricting commission case

The Michigan Supreme Court building at night
Wikimedia Commons
Several new organizations and the Michigan Press Association sued the commission to obtain memos and a recording of a meeting.

The state Supreme Court is siding with news outlets in a case against the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC).

The lawsuit revolved around the commission’s decision to discuss certain memos in private at an October 27 meeting.

The memos covered legal opinions on the Voting Rights Act and the history of discrimination in Michigan.

Attorney Robin Luce-Herrmann represented the coalition of Bridge, The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and the Michigan Press Association. She said voters wanted transparency when they approved the amendment that created the redistricting commission.

“From that perspective, providing the public as much information as possible about the redistricting process consistent with the constitutional amendment was very important,” Luce-Herrmann said.

The commission revisited the possibility of releasing the memos from the October meeting as well as a recording of the closed session during a meeting earlier this month before ultimately voting the idea down.

Lawyers for the MICRC argued the commission would be giving up attorney-client privilege by releasing the memos.

Critics, however, pointed to language in constitutional amendment that required the commission to conduct its business in the open.

“Here, what the court said was both that closed session and the two memos that were the subject of the closed session went to the core business of the commission in drawing maps and therefore under the constitution, they had to be disclosed,” Luce-Herrmann explained.

The 4-to-3 Supreme Court ruling means the private memos—along with a recording of the closed-door session—will become public.

“The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is aware of the Michigan Supreme Court decision and is in the process of complying with the order,” Commission spokesperson Edward Woods III said in a prepared statement.

The commission is scheduled to meet next on Dec. 28th in Lansing. Members plan to chose final versions of state House, Senate and congressional maps by the end of the year.

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