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Chapter 16: Freedom of Information Act Lawsuits (“FOIA”)

In order to grant the public access to government records, Michigan passed FOIA in 1976. In most lawsuits the plaintiff has the burden of going forward in presenting its case and the burden of proof on contested matters. However, FOIA places this responsibility on the public body.

FOIA also lists a number of exemptions related to documents which the public body is not required to produce. To gain an exemption a public body must indemnify the document and indicate the basis for the exemption.

As I mentioned earlier, in my FOIA action against the Michigan State Police, I received 3,411 pages. However, the documents did not contain the Search Warrant or the Search Warrant Affidavit and the Michigan State Police did not claim any exemption. The Oakland County Prosecutor produced nothing and this decision has been upheld by the Oakland County Circuit Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals. This is true even though the Michigan Constitution states that all citizens have a right to confer with the prosecutor (Article I, Section 24).

Earlier this year there was a great deal of publicity over the video tape of a police officer shooting a Chicago citizen. After I commenced the publication of this blog, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, suggested that police information should be available to citizens within 60 days after the shooting. However, in Michigan this time period continues for at least 40 years. While I seldom agree with the Chicago mayor on political matters, PERHAPS MICHIGAN SHOULD TAKE SOME LEGISLATIVE ACTION TO PROVIDE THOSE MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC WHO PROVIDE GOOD INFORMATION IN CRIMINAL CASES WITH THE REASONS FOR FAILURE TO PROSECUTE.

P.S. Tim King died 39 years ago on March 22, 1977

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