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MI Supreme Court hears news orgs versus redistricting commission

The state Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on whether the state’s redistricting commission can meet in private with its attorneys.

The Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on efforts by the state’s redistricting commission to keep a meeting with its legal counsel out of public view.

The challenge was filed by news media organizations – The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, Bridge Michigan and the Michigan Press Association. They argue the commission is explicitly required by the state constitution to meet in public until it adopts congressional and legislative district maps.

That’s not so, said David Fink, arguing for the commission. He told the court the commission is aware of how closely its work is being watched and that its final product will almost certainly be challenged.

“Yes, they knew there’d be litigation,” he said. “Yes, they knew they had to be careful about everything that they did, every step that they took and they’ve been careful.”

Also, he said, “It’s clear that defending the commission’s work requires some strong legal representation and that legal representation can only be effective with unfettered attorney-client communication.”

But the attorney for the news organizations said that didn’t require a closed-door session. Kurtis Wilder also said attorney-client privilege doesn’t apply until the commission finishes its work and faces an actual lawsuit challenging the maps.

“But until then, all the work of the commission must be done in the view of the public, subject to public scrutiny, including the review and discussion of information provided by the commission’s lawyers in the aid of its work,” he said. “To allow otherwise would be repugnant to the express will of the people.”

The Supreme Court has the case on a fast track and could rule as soon as this week.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.