Flint, MI– After a U.S. District Court Judge denied his objections, Councilman Eric Mays will have to pay the city of Flint more than $30,000 to cover the legal costs of a lawsuit he filed last year.
Mays filed the $1 million lawsuit in September of 2020, against the city of Flint, every member of city council, Flint City Attorney Angela Wheeler, Flint Police Officer William Metcalf, Mayor Sheldon Neeley, and Neeley’s Deputy Chief of Staff DuVarl Murdock.
The lawsuit alleged discrimination and rights violations, citing multiple incidents where Mays was removed from meetings, silenced during meetings, arrested, assaulted, and suspended, for a total of nine counts of alleged crimes.
On March 5 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Bernard A. Friedman ruled in favor of the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, citing “legislative immunity.”
In the case dismissal, Friedman wrote that “a legislative body’s decision to expel one of its members is a legislative activity,” and that the expelled member cannot sue the other members for participating in the legislative process.
He also wrote that upon reviewing the transcripts of the council meetings where Mays had been removed or muted, “each occasion this action was taken because plaintiff was being argumentative and disruptive.”
In May, Judge Friedman approved the city’s request to collect $34,975 from Mays to cover the costs of attorney fees for this lawsuit.
Two months later, the Court issued a “writ of garnishment,” an order requiring a third party to withhold money from a debtor—in this case, Mays. On July 21, a city of Flint representative told the court that Mays is paid by the city biweekly as a councilman, and that provided “sufficient funds are available,” they would begin withholding money from his paychecks.
On Aug. 11, Mays filed handwritten objections on his own to the writ of garnishment, stating that “it is not just to be the only person sanctioned,” for the complaint, and that because he was “being represented by two (2) licensed attorneys,” he “had no idea that a ‘frivolous’ complaint had been filed.”
Judge Friedman denied his objections on the basis that they did not meet legal objection criteria, but wrote that “even if the Court could consider the grounds May raises, the Court would reject them on the merits.”
In the court order denying Mays’s objections, Friedman wrote that there is nothing unjust about being the only person sanctioned for the complaint. He also stated that while Mays claims he had no idea a frivolous lawsuit had been filed, “lawyers are their clients’ agents, and clients are therefore responsible for their lawyers’ actions.”
Mays wonders why he is the only one getting sanctioned, and not his lawyers, who he said he hasn’t heard from in months.
Attorneys can be fined for taking on frivolous cases, but the city of Flint only requested Councilman Mays be sanctioned, writing that he “is the prime mover in this lawsuit and should bear the brunt of the responsibility for the attorney fees and costs incurred in the defense of this matter.”
“The lawyers got a license, they drew it up and filed it, I never signed nothing, but I’m getting punished for what they did or didn’t do. Usually the lawyer gets sanctioned,” Mays said. “This is a licensed practitioner. How am I responsible for a licensed practitioner? I can’t be responsible for what a licensed person do, can I?”
Mays said he doesn’t think the garnishment will make or break him, but that it is docking 25% of his pay every two weeks which amounts to $172.
He called the city’s choice to request his pay for the legal costs of the lawsuit “vindictive,” “retaliatory,” and “discretionary,” and said that it “shows their character.”
“What they did to me was real vindictive,” Mays said. “Maybe I’ll sue them again and represent myself and that will offset this, because I sure think I would do a better job than this attorney.”
Still, he said he has faith in God that “right is going to prevail over wrong,” and that “it will all work out.”