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Former Flint mayor, city residents criticize water settlement during federal court hearing

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A long line of Flint residents told a federal judge Tuesday that they are being victimized again by the massive water crisislegal settlement.

Since the proposed settlement of civil claims was first announced last August, it has been lawyers doing most of the talking.This was the first time that Flint residents had a chance to share their thoughts on and objections to the deal.

The federal judge held a special hearing in the Genesee County courthouse to give Flint residents a chance to appear before the court in person. 

More than 50,000 people have registered to be part of the $641-million settlement, funded by the state of Michigan, the city of Flint, McLaren Flint Hospital, and a local engineering firm. 

But in court, former Flint Mayor Karen Weaver talked about city residents settling for crumbs. 

Weaver compared the size of the $641-million dollar settlement, to be divided among tens of thousands of water crisis victims, with the historically large $500-million settlement Michigan State University agreed to pay more than 300 women that former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar abused.

Weaver told the judge Flint residents deserve “corrective justice.”

For other Flint residents testifying before the court, it wasn’t the size of the settlement, however it was how much of the settlement would be going to pay the lawyers.

Back in March, attorneys requested 32% of the settlement to cover their fees and expenses. That amounts to roughly $202 million. 

Flint resident Diane Fletcher told the court “This will go down in history as one of the greatest steals from innocent, helpless people.”

Outside the courthouse, the group Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch held a news conference to criticize the size of the attorneys’ compensation request.

Spokesman Robert Dorigo Jones says a “legitimate” fee would be between 15% and 20%.

“Still a lot of money,” said Jones, “But it would leave a lot more for the people who really deserve this. Who need this.”

U.S. District Judge Judith Levy called the remarks from Flint residents “moving and thoughtful.” but added “they point out the limitations of the legal system.

After a third hearing on Thursday, it will be up to Judge Levy to decide whether to give final approval to settlement. Her decision is expected later this year.

Speaking to the court, Flint resident James Moore talked about the ulitmate limits of the settlement to citizens who still would rather drink bottled water. 

"We’re still afraid," Moore told the court, "And how do you erase fear?"

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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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