The Gongwer Blog

283 Civil Rights Complaints At Risk In Grand Rapids Lawsuit

By Alyssa McMurtry
Staff Writer
Posted: June 19, 2023 11:27 PM

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights currently has 283 cases open with a creation date of June 1, 2020, or older, a key factor after the city of Grand Rapids filed a lawsuit a few weeks ago arguing the department is violating the statute of limitations by pursuing cases started three or more years ago.

Should the City of Grand Rapids prevail, it could prompt the end of most of those cases.

Harold Core, director of special projects with the department, told Gongwer News Service that the department currently has 283 cases with a created date of June 1, 2020, or older. Of those cases, four have reached the charge stage and three are in the process of being closed.

"Unfortunately staffing decreases over the years has contributed to the extended length of time to investigate cases," Core said when asked why the cases typically took so long.

Individuals have 180 days from the date of the incident to file a complaint with MDCR to launch an investigation and under civil rights laws, individuals have three years.

In the case City of Grand Rapids v. Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the city is seeking a declaratory judgment in the Court of Claims that the three-year statute of limitations applies to the amount of time MDCR has to issue formal charges for complaints brought under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act as well as the amount of time a person has to bring a complaint to the MDCR.

The city contends that the statute of limitations in ELCRA applies not just to how much time a person has to file a complaint with the Department of Civil Rights from the date an incident occurred but also to the amount of time the department has to issue formal charges after receiving a complaint.

"This is a purely legal and procedural question and does not address the underlying merits of any complaint," Steve Guitar, media relations manager for the city of Grand Rapids, said in a statement. "Nor does the suit ask for the court to dismiss the complaints, rather, if the statute of limitations applies, then the MDCR should be enjoined from taking further action on any of them."

Both MDCR and the city of Grand Rapids kept their statements brief, saying they would not be providing any more comment as the case is still ongoing.

The case has been assigned to Chief Judge Elizabeth Gleicher.

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