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Michigan Supreme Court sides with media outlets in redistricting commission case

 A proposed congressional district map from the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The state Supreme Court ruled Monday that the commission needs to make public a set of records it had been trying to keep out of view.
Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
A proposed congressional district map from the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The state Supreme Court ruled Monday that the commission needs to make public a set of records it had been trying to keep out of view.

The state Supreme Court sided Monday with news outlets in a case against the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The lawsuit revolved around the commission’s decision to discuss certain memos in private at an Oct. 27 meeting.

The memos covered legal opinions on the Voting Rights Act and the history of discrimination in Michigan.

Robin Luce-Herrmann was on the media outlets’ legal team. She said voters wanted transparency when they approved the amendment that created the redistricting commission.

“From that perspective, providing the public as much information as possible about the redistricting process consistent with the constitutional amendment was very important,” Luce-Herrmann said.

The commission revisited the possibility of releasing the memos from the Oct. 27 meeting, as well as a recording of the closed session, during a meeting earlier this month before ultimately voting the idea down.

Lawyers for the commission argued it would be giving up attorney-client privilege by releasing the memos.

Critics, however, pointed to language in constitutional amendment that required the commission to conduct its business in the open.

Luce-Herrmann said the court's ruling underscored that the closed session and the two memos discussed there "went to the core business of the commission."

"Therefore under the constitution, they had to be disclosed,” she said.

The 4-to-3 ruling means the private memos — along with a recording of the closed-door session — will become public.

“The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is aware of the Michigan Supreme Court decision and is in the process of complying with the order,” Commission spokesperson Edward Woods III said in a prepared statement.

The commission is scheduled to meet next on Dec. 28 in Lansing. It plans to chose final versions of state House, Senate, and congressional maps by the end of the year.

Copyright 2021 Michigan Radio

Colin Jackson | MPRN