Detroit lawyer talks with Notre Dame law students about Flint lawsuits

Published: Feb. 26, 2016 at 6:18 PM EST
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The legal battle in the Flint water crisis is just beginning.

This week, a Michigan attorney who's suing the state was at Notre Dame to meet with law students.

Julie Hurwitz says the crisis in Flint shows there's a big demand for civil rights lawyers.

Hurwitz practices law in Detroit and has filed three class action suits against the state and Gov. Rick Snyder.

Before Michigan state and city leaders begin a years-long process of replacing lead pipes in Flint, Detroit attorney Julie Hurwitz has already started what could be a long legal battle.

“It's not simply a public health crisis, it's a crisis in democracy. And it's a crisis in issues of class and race and the rights of people to have a say,” Hurwitz said.

Hurwitz, who hosted a discussion with Notre Dame law students today, has filed three class action suits that put both the state of Michigan and Gov. Snyder in the crosshairs.

“It's a crisis that's not just affecting African Americans, not just minorities or poor people, but anybody represented in that community,” Notre Dame law student Lavarr Barnett said.

“Compensate this community for the injuries that have been visited upon them. Fix the problem quickly, without hesitation. And repeal this draconian emergency manager law,” Hurwitz said.

Hurwitz argues the Public Act 72 of 1990 violates the 14th amendment on the basis of race and wealth. She represents households in Flint that have suffered lead contamination. Her suits will seek to prove the state created a public danger and ignored warnings in order to save millions on an alternate water source.

“If you find yourself where you're in a poor state or a poor community, this kind of thing could potentially happen. It's unfortunate, but I'm glad we were able to have this talk and have people come together and learn a little more about it,” Barnett said.

Hurwitz admits she doesn't know how long the suits could be tied up in court, but hopes her presentation will strike a chord with a few aspiring attorneys.

“The legal work is definitely out there. What is going on in Michigan is simply the tip of the iceberg. We are the canary in the coal mine,” Hurwitz said.

Besides Gov. Snyder, Flint's former emergency manager Darnell Earley is also named in the class action suits.

He plans to resign as emergency manager from Detroit's public schools at the end of February.

Michigan protected by governmental immunity, so Hurwitz will have to file in the court of claims, which means there's no right to a jury trial.