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A Better Partnership
April 28, 2016

COA: Closed informal sessions do not violate the Open Meetings Act

The Michigan Constitution allows governing boards of public universities some latitude to define what constitutes a “formal session” that must be held in public, says the Court of Appeals in Detroit Free Press v University of Michigan Regents, No. 328182.  Plaintiffs, Detroit Free Press, Inc. and Federated Publications, Inc., publish or operate two major newspapers in the state of Michigan.  Defendant, the University of Michigan Regents, is a constitutional corporation and public body responsible for governing the University of Michigan.  Plaintiffs contend that Defendant’s “closed informal sessions” violate the Open Meetings Act (OMA), MCL 15.261 et seq. and Article 8, § 4 of the Michigan Constitution. 
The Court of Claims denied Plaintiff’s motion for summary disposition and request for an injunction, and granted summary disposition in favor of Defendant.  The court determined that the Michigan Constitution insulates Defendant from being required by the OMA to open its informal meetings to the public, otherwise, OMA would essentially dictate how the university operated on a day-to-day basis.  Plaintiff appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts determination.  The court reasoned that the Michigan Constitution permits informal meetings in private and only requires formal meetings to be held in public.

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