Michigan: “Lawsuit against governor’s FOIA order waits in appellate court”

September 24, 2020 | By Mitchell Kukulka | Midland Daily News

Lawsuit might soon find its way before the Michigan Supreme Court
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in an AP file photo.

“A lawsuit filed against Michigan’s governor for her alleged suspension of the state’s Freedom of Information Act might soon find its way before the Michigan Supreme Court.

On April 5, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-38, which allowed for “limited and temporary extensions of certain FOIA deadlines.” The order allowed public bodies to defer parts of FOIA requests submitted by mail, fax or in person for responses that would require workers to report to government offices in-person.

The lawsuit was filed two days later by Philip Ellison, a Hemlock-based attorney, on behalf of two clients: Eric Ostergren of Midland County and Jason Gillman Jr. of Ingham County.

“At times of emergency, timely and meaningful access to government-held information and records of decision is at its highest and suspension and limitation of the same is not reasonable and outside the scope of the authority under Michigan law,” the lawsuit argues.

In May, Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens in the Michigan Court of Claims ruled in favor of Whitmer, claiming the order was within the scope of Whitmer’s authority granted by the Emergency Powers of Governor Act. The case is currently waiting in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Ostergren hopes the Michigan Supreme Court will soon make a ruling on another lawsuit facing the governor — Midwest Institute of Health, PLLC et al v. Whitmer — with the precedent of Whitmer’s actions being unconstitutional, and other lawsuits, including his, will follow.

“We live in a representative republic,” Ostergren said. “One branch of government can’t grab the power from another branch of government, and that’s what (Whitmer’s) done. She’s grasped a lot more power than our constitution allows.”

The governor’s office did not return of request for comment at the time of publication.”

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