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A Better Partnership
December 24, 2014

MSC holds that a party must obtain injunctive relief to recover attorney fees under the Open Meetings Act

Declaratory relief is not enough under the Open Meetings Act if you want to collect attorney's fees.  In Speicher v. Columbia Township Board of Trustees, No. 148617, the plaintiff, Kenneth Speicher, pursued injunctive relief for OMA violations, obtained declaratory relief, and was granted his attorney fees by the Court of Appeals.  The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, holding that he had to obtain injunctive relief to recover attorney fees according to the statute.
Speicher originally sued the Columbia Township Board of Trustees in 2010 for failing to comply with the OMA. He alleged that the Township violated the notice provisions of the OMA by changing Township meeting schedules without properly informing the public. The Court of Appeals granted Speicher declaratory relief on his claims, but upheld the trial court's denial of injunctive relief. Relying on a long line of cases that the Court of Appeals admitted were poorly reasoned, the Court of Appeals granted Speicher attorney fees and court costs based on solely on the declaratory relief claim.
The Michigan Supreme Court, however, held that under a plain reading of  the OMA, the award of  "attorney fees [and courts costs is limited] to cases in which the public body persists in violations the act, a suit is brought to enjoin such behavior, and that suit is successful in obtaining injunctive relief."  

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