State settles lawsuit seeking former AG Schuette’s private emails

Vice President Mike Pence disembarks Air Force Two at Capital Regional International Airport in Lansing, Mich. Tuesday, Feb.25, 2020 and is greeted by former Attorney General Bill Schuette and Rep. John Moolenaar | Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour via Flickr Public Domain

Years after a lawsuit was filed by a liberal advocacy group seeking former Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette’s private emails, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced a settlement agreement Wednesday.

In 2016, Progress Michigan sought out Schuette’s private emails which he used to conduct public business. But the former attorney general denied the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to release the emails. 

Nessel’s office said in a statement Wednesday that the emails are missing from the Department of Attorney General’s records and it cannot be certain whether they were “maintained in accordance with the applicable retention and disposal schedules.”

Case seeking former AG Schuette’s private emails will continue

We are completely vindicated after a unanimous decision at the Michigan Supreme Court, today’s statement that those emails are ‘missing,’ and the steps toward more transparency that have been implemented by Attorney General Nessel,” Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott said. “Progress Michigan will continue to fight for transparency and accountability in government, including real FOIA reform that includes the legislature and Governor’s office, but we are glad for this lawsuit to finally be resolved.”

The settlement includes partial payment of attorneys’ fees to Progress Michigan.

Prior to the lawsuit, the State of Michigan did not have a policy prohibiting the use of private emails for official business. 

In one of her first moves upon taking office last January, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive banning state employees from using private email for state business. 

“The Freedom of Information Act protects the people’s right to inspect and receive public records, including concerning official business that may have been sent or received on personal email accounts,” Nessel said. “I appreciate Progress Michigan bringing attention to this important issue, and, as a result of its lawsuit, the State revised its FOIA procedures to reflect best practices. The State serves the people of Michigan, and they deserve to know what we are doing and how we are doing it.”

Allison Donahue
Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.