LANSING – Michigan Court of Appeals issued ruling today in the Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault’s transparency lawsuit against the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA).
Earlier this year, the Michigan Supreme Court remanded CPAN’s case back to the Court of Appeals and instructed the Court to specifically address the issue of whether the MCCA is a “public body” as defined by Michigan law and whether the legislature’s exemption of the MCCA from the state Freedom of Information Act was constitutional.
Today’s Court of Appeals decision agreed with CPAN’s assertion that the MCCA is indeed a public body as defined by Michigan law. However, the Court split 2-1 in determining whether the MCCA’s exemption from FOIA laws was constitutional.
In response to the court’s decision, CPAN spokesperson Josh Hovey issued the following statement:
“This case is about far more than auto no-fault insurance. Yes, CPAN believes that having open access to the MCCA’s financial records is vital to understanding Michigan’s auto no-fault system. But at its core, this case has broad implications for the openness and transparency of Michigan’s government overall.
CPAN is pleased that the court agreed with its argument that the MCCA is indeed a ‘public body’ because it was created by an act of the Michigan legislature. However, the majority’s decision that the legislature can amend the state’s FOIA laws without amending the actual Freedom of Information Act should be of major concern to anyone who values government transparency.
The effect of the majority decision is to make it possible for the legislature to exempt itself from Article 4, Section 25 of the Michigan Constitution, which very specifically requires the legislature to ‘re-enact and publish at length’ any statute that is being amended by the subsequent act, which was done with the MCCA’s FOIA exemption. If this decision is allowed to stand, it will now be much easier for the legislature to hide exemptions to FOIA in other statutes, as was clearly pointed out in the dissenting opinion.”
CPAN’s legal counsel plans to review the court’s decision in detail over the next several weeks to determine its options for appeal.