Appeals court dismisses effort to charge Rick Snyder in Flint water case

  • An appeals court declined to reconsider dismissed charges against ex-Gov. Rick Snyder in the Flint water crisis 
  • The ruling cited a procedural error in the appeal that state lawyers say they plan to correct
  • Snyder was charged with two misdemeanor counts tied to the Flint water crisis

The Michigan Court of Appeals has rejected the state’s attempt to appeal a lower court’s dismissal of criminal charges against former Gov. Rick Snyder in the Flint water crisis, marking another setback for state prosecutors. 

The decision comes after a lower court in December dismissed misdemeanor charges against Snyder for his role in the crisis. The state has appealed that and multiple other dismissals in the case, and so far has failed in each case. 

But unlike other recent dismissals, Thursday’s order wasn’t a ruling on the merits of the case. Instead, it stemmed from a procedural mistake by the state prosecution team appointed by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. 


An order by a three-judge panel, signed Thursday by Presiding Judge Sima G. Patel,  stated that the prosecution’s appeal is “not within the Court of Appeals jurisdiction because the circuit court order on appeal from the district court is not appealable as a matter of right.”

In other words, said Brian Lennon, an attorney for Snyder, “they didn’t follow the rules.” 

Lennon said prosecutors erred by appealing directly to the Court of Appeals, without first seeking the court’s permission. The prosecution team now has an opportunity to correct the procedural error, he said. 

That means the case could end up back in front of an appeals court that has already refused to revive charges against other Flint defendants. In several cases, the prosecution team has sought to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

In a brief statement Thursday, the state prosecution team said it is “not discouraged” by Thursday’s order. 

“This ruling simply addresses the form of the appeal and does not preclude us from presenting these same issues to the Court,” the team stated. “We will be refiling and we look forward to presenting our case to the Court of Appeals.”  

State lawyers charged Snyder with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty in connection with the Flint water crisis, punishable by up to one-year behind bars and/or a $1,000 fine. 

He was one of eight Flint water defendants to have charges dismissed after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in June that Michigan improperly relied on a one-person grand jury to bring charges. 

That ruling prompted Genesee County Judge F. Kay Behm to dismiss the charges against Snyder in December, writing that they “were not properly brought.”

Lennon, Snyder’s lawyer, said he is confident the appeals court will reach the same conclusion if prosecutors make a second attempt to appeal Behm’s decision.

The prosecution team has called Behm’s decision a ruling “on process alone,” and said it believes the evidence “clearly supports the criminal charges against Rick Snyder.” 

The Flint water crisis was triggered in 2014 when the city, under oversight by a state-appointed emergency manager, switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River without requiring corrosion control to keep lead from leaching from the city’s older pipes. 

That failure — and the Snyder administration’s initial reluctance to heed residents’ complaints about foul and discolored tap water — caused a lead contamination crisis that coincided with two outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease and 12 deaths.


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