A Michigan judge has affirmed the allegations of two Second Amendment groups who argued that the state House of Representatives violated the state’s Open Meetings Act when holding hearings on several gun control bills earlier this year.
Judge James Robert Redford (no, really) concluded that the state Senate complied with the OMA during its own hearings, but the House gave short shrift to Second Amendment advocates when conducting committee hearings on gun control legislation.
The House Committee on Judiciary held public meetings March 1, 2023, March 8, 2023, March 22, 2023, and April 12, 2023. The committee chair imposed no time restrictions on the testimony taken at any of these hearings. Nor did the chair advise the members of the public in attendance that the committee would accept written submissions in lieu of testimony. The documentation provided by the parties and the recordings of the four committee hearings support a conclusion that not everyone who wished to address the public body was able to do so in large part because of certain inefficiencies in the conducting of the hearings, including the late start of several of the committee meetings and the chair’s failure to set reasonable restrictions on the length of testimony.
For these reasons, the Court concludes that the House committee acted in violation of the OMA.
BREAKING: ***Michigan House Violated Open Meetings Act On Gun-Control Bills***
The Michigan Court of Claims has held that the Michigan House of Representatives violated the State's Open Meetings Act when it arbitrarily limited, or in most cases completely prevented, pro-gun… pic.twitter.com/1XFa3vZ6fp
— GreatLakesGunRights (@GLGunRights) November 17, 2023
Note, however, that this doesn’t affect the legal standing of the gun control bills that were enshrined into law this year, including “universal” background checks and a “red flag” law. In fact, Judge Redford declined to issue an injunction that would have compelled the House to comply with the language of the Open Meeting Act going forward.
“Where there is no reason to believe that a public body will deliberately fail to comply with the OMA in the future, injunctive relief is unwarranted.”
In the present matter, there is no evidence that the House will not act with due dispatch in remedying these violations once they have been pointed out by this Court. Indeed, it only need look to the Senate for guidance. Although the Court is keenly aware of its responsibility to construe the OMA and its applicability to the Legislature, it is also keenly aware of the duty of each house of the Legislature to determine the rules of its own proceedings. The Court leaves to the wisdom of the legislative branch the rules to be enacted to bring the House into compliance with the OMA.
Despite recognizing that the House violated the law, Redford dismissed the complaint filed by Great Lakes Gun Rights and Michigan Open Carry under the dubious theory that the House will now comply with the Open Meetings Act going forward.
Why would they do that after they were just allowed to get away with violating the OMA without so much as a slap on the wrist or a stern lecture from the court? The acknowledgment by Judge Redford that the House didn’t comply with state law is nice, but it’d be even better if it had some teeth to it. Redford’s opinion gives the House far too much credit, though I guess if the Democratic leadership in the chamber tries to pull the same shenanigans going forward GLGR and MOC can always file suit again and tell the judge “We told you so.”