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142841 - Prins v Michigan State Police

​Plaintiff-Appellee's Brief on Appeal>>
Defendant-Appellant's Brief on Appeal>>
Michigan Municipal League's Amicus Curiae Brief>>

Nancy Ann Prins,
 
Bruce A. Lincoln
 
Plaintiff-Appellee,
 
v
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
 
 
(Ionia – Kreeger, S.)
 
Michigan State Police,
 
Kevin Lee Francart
 
Defendant-Appellant.
 
and
 
 
David Fedewa,
 
 
 
Defendant.
 

Summary

​On May 4, 2008, a Michigan State Police trooper stopped a vehicle driven by Nancy Prins and ticketed her passenger for not wearing a seat belt. In a letter dated July 22, 2008, Prins made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Michigan State Police, asking for “[a]ny recording or other electronic media taken by [the trooper] on May 4th, 2008 between the hours of 10:00 am to 12:00 pm of me while traveling upon Morrison Lake Rd and Grand River Rd, within Boston Twp., Ionia County, Michigan.” By letter dated Saturday, July 26, 2008, the Michigan State Police denied the request, explaining that “[a]ny car video that may have existed is no longer available. Only kept 30 days [and] reused.” This response was postmarked July 29; Prins received it on July 31.

On Monday, January 26, 2009, Prins filed a complaint in Ionia County Circuit Court against the Michigan State Police and David Fedewa, the Michigan State Police’s Assistant Freedom of Information Coordinator, seeking damages for a FOIA violation. Prins claimed in part that the trooper who stopped her in May 2008 had appeared at a formal hearing regarding the seat belt ticket on October 29, 2008 and displayed to the court the same tape that had been the subject of her denied FOIA request. Under Section 10(1)(b) of FOIA, “If a public body makes a final determination to deny all or a portion of a request, the requesting person may . . . [c]ommence an action in the circuit court to compel the public body’s disclosure of the public records within 180 days after a public body’s final determination to deny a request.” The Michigan State Police moved to dismiss Prins’ lawsuit, arguing in part that Prins filed her complaint after the statute of limitations ran out, more than 180 days after the date on the State Police’s letter (July 26, 2008) denying her FOIA request. Prins responded the statute of limitations began to run, not as of the date of the letter, but on the date that the Michigan State Police mailed the response. Because Prins filed her complaint on the first business day that was 180 days from the postmark date, her lawsuit was timely, she contended. But the trial court granted the Michigan State Police’s motion, dismissing the case on the basis that the 180-day period expired before Prins filed her complaint.

Prins appealed, and in a published decision, the Court of Appeals reversed. The court concluded that the Legislature intended a public body to “undertake an affirmative step reasonably calculated to bring the denial notice to the attention of the requesting party.” A public body does not satisfy the notice requirement until it “‘sends out’ or officially circulates its denial,” the Court of Appeals held. Accordingly, the 180-day period did not begin to run in Prins’ case until the postmark date, the appellate panel said. The Attorney General, on behalf of the Michigan State Police, appeals.