Officials facing criminal charges over Flint water crisis News
Officials facing criminal charges over Flint water crisis

David Leyton, a prosecutor in Genesee County, Michigan, announced Wednesday [CNN report] that a Michigan judge will allow criminal charges against three people involved in the water crisis in Flint, including the man who supervised the treatment plan as well as two state environmental officials. In another development a federal court on Monday dismissed [ABC News report] a class action lawsuit [text, PDF] from citizens of Flint, Michigan regarding the water crisis the city has been facing. Judge John Corbett O’Meara [official profile] of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] determined that his court did not have jurisdiction because the claim was not made under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act [EPA information] and that the plaintiffs should take their claim to a state court. However, the plaintiffs brought their claim under the 14th Amendment‘s [text] Due Process Clause in attempts to cover the federal jurisdiction and because the relief sought included monetary damages, which the Safe Drinking Water Act does not allow. This procedural dismissal is a setback for the citizens seeking compensation for themselves and the city as a whole, but it does not prevent further action.

Public officials have come under fire [Atlantic report] for their response to the crisis, as it took 20 months after the initial switch in water supply for an emergency to be declared by the state. Earlier this month the city of Flint filed an intent to sue letter [JURIST report] with the state, claiming that the city lacks funds to defend itself against lawsuits filed during the water crisis [CNN timeline]. In March a Michigan firm filed a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] on behalf of the children of Flint. Earlier in March seven families living in Flint filed a class action lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against Governor Rick Snyder alleging gross negligence [JURIST report] in connection to the lead-contaminated water. Also in March a group of UN human rights experts called on [JURIST report] the US to increase its efforts to address the issue of lead-contaminated water in Flint. In January the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, seeking the replacement of lead water pipes in the city of Flint. The lawsuit, filed in conjunction with Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and Flint resident Melissa Mays, seeks to force city and state officials to mediate alleged violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Also in January Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette appointed a former prosecutor [JURIST report] to act as Special Counsel in his investigation into the water contamination crisis in the city of Flint, and a retired Detroit FBI chief will also participate in the investigation.