Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency relied on a flawed computer program to falsely accuse thousands of citizens of insurance fraud and wrongfully eliminate their unemployment benefits, all the while providing little recourse for them to challenge these determinations and sending some into bankruptcy and financial ruin. A group of affected citizens sued the state for violating their rights under the Michigan Constitution, but the state argued that there is no remedy in state court for this violation. In fact, it has long been an unsettled question whether Michigan law allows the recovery of damages from governmental officials who violate their rights under our state constitution. As our federal courts become more conservative in their interpretation of the United States Constitution, it is increasingly important that we look to vindicate constitutional rights in state court. In 2021 the ACLU of Michigan, along with the National Lawyers Guild, filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Michigan Supreme Court to once and for all hold that in almost all cases, people whose state constitutional rights are violated can recover money damages. In July 2022 the Michigan Supreme Court issued an important decision agreeing with our arguments and broadly establishing that in most circumstances, someone whose rights under the Michigan Constitution are violated by a state officer may sue the state and receive monetary compensation for their injuries. (Bauserman v. Unemployment Insurance Agency; ACLU Attorneys Phil Mayor and Dan Korobkin; co-counsel Julie Hurwitz of the National Lawyers Guild.)
The Michigan Legislature is in session.