WASHINGTON (CN) — Municipal officials facing civil liability for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, failed Tuesday to get the case against them detoured to the Supreme Court.
The order denying a writ of certiorari comes a full year after the Sixth Circuit ruled that immunity does not shield Flint and city officials from claims that they violated the rights of residents to “bodily integrity” by switching the source of Flint’s water supply to another source they knew was unsafe.
Residents led by Shari Guertin say they were exposed to high levels of lead when the city and officials pushed through the process of changing the city’s water source to the corrosive Flint River.
In urging the high court to weigh in on the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, the city and officials argued the decision would significantly expand substantive due process precedent.
“Protecting the public against environmental harms is a very important issue,” the city’s brief states. “For example, this issue is likely to play a central role in the 2020 elections. But the fact that it is an important political question does not mean that this court’s existing, intentionally restrained, substantive due process jurisprudence should be radically expanded to encompass judicially created environmental policy.”
The Sixth Circuit declined in May to rehear the case.
Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue any comment in turning down the appeal.
The Flint residents are represented by Paul Geske with the Chicago firm McGuire Law, who praised the court’s decision Tuesday.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is monumental, not just for our clients’ individual case, but also for all of the other Flint water crisis cases pending in the Sixth Circuit and in the Eastern District of Michigan,” Geske said in a statement. “It clears the way toward accountability for those responsible for the Flint water crisis. We look forward to continuing to represent our clients in the District Court.”
John Bursch, of Caledonia, Michigan, represents a group of state officials, while Sheldon Klein of the Bloomfield Hills firm Butzel Long represents the city and another group of officials. Neither immediately returned a request for comment on the decision.
An attorney with the city of Flint did not immediately return a request for comment.