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Michigan Attorney General Will Not Represent Governor In Pension Case

Jul 6, 2016

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
Credit State of Michigan / michigan.gov

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is the state’s top attorney, but says he won’t be Governor Rick Snyder’s lawyer if he pursues a particular appeal.   


It says the state owes roughly $550 million to teachers for illegally withholding 3% of their paychecks to fund retirement health benefits that weren’t guaranteed.

Andrea Bitely of the attorney general’s office says the state isn’t likely to win in the end, and if Governor Snyder wants to appeal, he’ll have to go it alone.  “In this case, we’ve reviewed the decision and made the determination that we will not be providing legal counsel,” she said.   Bitely says Schuette would name Snyder’s choice from a private law firm to be a special assistant attorney general on the state payroll to deal with this specific case. 

Anna Heaton is the governor’s press secretary.  She says that’s what will happen because the state needs that money.  “It’s about the stability of the system,” she said.  “Michigan has a pattern of having unfunded liabilities, so this is a liability that’s going to be funded.”   

Teachers' unions filed the lawsuit after the law was passed in 2010 and signed by Governor Jennifer Granholm.  The Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder then amended the law after the state lost early court battles. 

But this is not the only time Snyder and Schuette have parted ways on legal strategy.  Most recently, Snyder said he did not support Schuette’s decision to challenge federal pollution regulations.  Meanwhile, Schuette investigators accused Snyder’s legal team of withholding information related to their inquiry into the causes of the Flint water crisis

Schuette’s office says the state can’t win the case and taking it further is a waste of time and money.  Schuette also says it’s not fair to teachers to make them wait longer for the money they’re owed.   

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org