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Federal appeals court likely future stop in former Gov. Rick Snyder's effort to avoid testifying in Flint water civil trial

Former Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) (file photo)
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Former Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) (file photo)

A federal appeals court is likely the next step in former Gov. Rick Snyder’s effort to avoid testifying at a civil trial involving the Flint water crisis.

Snyder, former emergency managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley, former Snyder aide Rich Baird and Flint city employee Howard Croft are resisting testifying because they are also facing criminal charges tied to the crisis.

Snyder and Croft are charged with misdemeanors. Ambrose, Darnell and Baird a charged with felonies. The criminal cases are on hold as courts are reviewing issues with how the investigation was done and how evidence has been handled.

The indictments were handed down in January of 2021, months after Snyder and others were deposed under oath in the civil case.

Because Snyder and the others did not invoke their right against self-incrimination at the depositions, U.S. District Judge Judith Levy says they cannot invoke their Fifth Amendment rights now.

They could face contempt of court if they try to do so on the witness stand.

On Friday, Judge Levy told lawyers for Snyder and the others to file written briefs next week. That would be a step toward appealing to the Sixth Circuit Court.

As this process proceeds, the civil trial continues.

The case involves damage claims on behalf of four children exposed to Flint’s tainted drinking water during the water crisis. The suit is seeking damages from two engineering firms (Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam), which were hired at consultants on the city’s water system.

This is the first civil lawsuit tied to the water crisis to reach the trial stage. It’s referred to as a bellwether trial. It will serve as a guide for future Flint water crisis lawsuits.

The Ann Arbor jury has heard from a series of technical and company witnesses since the trial began last month. Next week, former Mayor Dayne Walling is scheduled to take the witness stand.

The trial is expected to take several more months.

Meanwhile, time is running out for tens of thousands of potential plaintiffs in a $626 million settlement of claims against the state of Michigan, city of Flint, McLaren Flint Hospital and Rowe Professional Services.

People have until May to complete their application for a share of the settlement.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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