FLINT, MI — A Genesee County Circuit Court judge has ordered state prosecutors to continue work on protocols for developing a taint team to review documents tied to Flint water crisis criminal cases but will allow for a pause in filtering additional materials related to the cases until the Michigan Court of Appeals rules on her actions.
Judge Elizabeth A. Kelly issued the order on Monday, March 7, in the seven water prosecutions pending in her courtroom.
“Under (state law), this Court’s previous order shall be followed,” Kelly wrote in the two-page order. “The Court finds no reason to halt the process of establishing a protocol for implementing a taint team. Both parties shall continue their efforts to comply with previous court orders.”
Kelly’s order on prosecutors’ request for a stay of proceeding was partially granted, however, allowing a pause in filtering of discovery materials “until this issue is heard, resolved or ruled on at the Michigan Court of Appeals.”
Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who is leading the criminal water prosecutions, said in a statement to MLive-The Flint Journal that prosecutors ” will continue to abide by the court’s ruling while we work our way through the appellate process.”
In January, Kelly denied a motion from prosecutors for reconsideration of an earlier decision in which she required the establishment of a taint team — a group of individuals not connected to the criminal investigation that would review seized materials to determine whether the information is privileged and should be withheld from prosecutors and other attorneys.
The ruling came after complaints from attorneys for seven current and former state and city of Flint officials charged with felonies for their alleged role in the water crisis.
Those officials, including former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director Nick Lyon and former Flint emergency managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley, have said prosecutors distributed discovery documents without using a taint team, resulting in the release of attorney-client privileged documents to prosecutors and other attorneys whose clients are facing criminal charges.
Flint water prosecutors claim the requirement that they establish a taint team to filter evidence would cost taxpayers millions of dollars and could delay nine pending criminal cases for years.
Two of the cases, including one against former Gov. Rick Snyder, are also pending in Genesee District Court.