Levine & Levine attorneys representing Rich Baird, advisor to former Governor Rick Snyder, were handed a victory by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, November 8. In July, Baird’s attorney Sarissa Montague, of the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based law firm, and the other Flint Water defendants argued that an earlier ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Judith E. Levy forcing defendants to testify in the children’s civil trial against Veolia North America was a violation of their Fifth Amendment Rights.
Montague argued that even though Baird had given testimony during a deposition in 2020, requiring him to be a witness during the same Flint Water civil trial could be used against him during any future criminal proceedings, of which Baird had been charged.
The ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said, “In the present case, the district court ordered the appellant state officials to testify at trial—to be witnesses against themselves—despite their invocation of their right against self-incrimination. According to the district court, appellants “waived” their right not to be witnesses against themselves at trial by voluntarily submitting to discovery deposition.
“We disagree. We conclude that the district court erroneously held that testifying at a pretrial deposition waives invocation of the privilege at a later trial in the same civil case. In doing so, we hold that a Fifth Amendment waiver does not extend to trial under these circumstances.”
Randall Levine, Levine & Levine’s managing partner, who argued the original case in front of Judge Levy, said, “We have argued all along that requiring our client to testify during the Flint Water Crisis civil trial against Veolia North America was in direct violation of the Fifth Amendment. We are gratified that the Sixth Circuit has agreed with us on this fundamental constitutional right. Now Mr. Baird need not suffer the indignity of having to answer questions posed to him by Veolia lawyers that are designed to shift blame unjustifiably to him for a crisis which was created by others.”
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