LANSING, Mich. — Legislation that would require most state government departments to pay the court costs of winning parties when they prevail in court against a state department or agency has been approved by the Senate.
Senate Bills 189, 190, and 886, would aim to have departments working with residents and businesses on disagreements or issues instead of unnecessarily pushing them into court. If legal action is taken and the department loses, they will be held accountable unless they make a compelling case to the court that proves their position was substantially justifiable.
“When individuals or businesses find themselves in the unfortunate position of being in a dispute with state government, too often, the government forces legal action, in large part because there is no cost to the bureaucrat or the bureaucracy who forces that action,” said Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, who sponsored SB 189 and 886. “In most cases, disputes can be and should be resolved without prolonged and costly legal proceedings. However, sometimes the state’s conduct is such that it is the only course of action and, in those cases, the state should be responsible for repaying the associated costs for residents who have won a court proceeding against the state especially when the department’s position wrongly injured an innocent individual or business.”
Casperson said that many of his constituents have raised concerns on the matter, for example with permitting and tax issues, leading to the legislation’s introduction. Residents often do not have the resources available to them that state departments have and therefore drop complaints and comply with department demands, even when they are in the entirely in the right and a state department is wrong, because they simply cannot afford the tremendous costs associated with a court battle.
“These bills will cause state government to think twice and not only really work hand-in-hand through issues with Michigan residents and small businesses in a more professional, expeditious manner, but ensure that the position the bureaucracy holds is one that is actually supported by the law, and not simply how it wishes things to be,” Casperson said.
The bills now go to the state House for consideration.