Flint, MI– The judge presiding over the case regarding former Gov. Rick Snyder’s involvement in the Flint Water Crisis decided he needed more time to review information before ruling on the motion to dismiss the case.
“This motion is dealing with some matters that don’t cross the desk of a District Court judge very often, this one-person grand jury, multi-county grand jury,” said Judge William Crawford II at the status conference Feb. 23. “Don’t remember that in law school. Don’t remember that on the bar exam, either.”
On Jan. 13, Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty for his involvement in the Flint Water Crisis. The counts are misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Two weeks later, Snyder’s attorney, Brian Lennon, made a motion for the judge to “quash,” or dismiss, the case for being filed in the “improper venue,” and for what he said was a “lack of jurisdiction.” Lennon argued that the charges were not only false, but also filed in the wrong county. He said the case should be handled in Lansing, not Genesee County.
Crawford was set to hear arguments on this motion today, but decided to move them to March 9, at 9 a.m, citing many concerns.
The first was just that he just needed more time to review the case information.
“Unlike the judges that you may normally practice in front of…they all have law clerks to help them review all these matters and cases,” Crawford said. “Here in the district court, it’s just me…there may be some people that could digest all that and rule on this today, but not me.”
Crawford’s second concern had to do with him being a Flint resident. Last month, the attorney for Flint’s Former Director of Public Works Howard Croft requested Crawford be disqualified from presiding over the case because he was a Flint resident during the water crisis.
The attorney, James White, said that because Crawford is “an alleged victim of Mr. Croft’s alleged” crime, he cannot be unbiased in his judgment.
Crawford asked the parties in the Snyder case whether or not they believe he is an appropriate judge for the case. He also said he believes there may be an issue in the future with finding Flint residents who could serve as jurors if the case goes to trial.
The third issue was that he felt he is being asked to rule on whether Circuit Court Judge David Newblatt, who served as the one-man grand jury who authorized charges against nine officials, including Gov. Snyder, handled the matter correctly.
“When you distill the arguments down to the bare bones, what it boils down to is that I am being asked to overrule the actions of a Circuit Court judge,” Crawford said.
He wondered whether it would be more appropriate for this matter to be brought before Newblatt, or the Chief Judge for the Genesee County Circuit Court, or even the Michigan Court of Appeals.
He was also concerned about the potential for inconsistent rulings, if he rules that it was done correctly, and the judge in the other cases rules otherwise.
“For example, what if I say…this venue is correct, and she says the venue on the same issue is incorrect? So, I’m right and the circuit judge is wrong? And vice versa,” Crawford said.
Crawford requested both parties think about his concerns, and submit their thoughts and opinions on the matter to him by next Monday. On Tuesday they will meet on a Zoom call to discuss their thoughts, and how they wish to proceed.