After three long year of litigation, Jim Amberg and his legal team have won a landmark decision in the Michigan Supreme Court regarding the rights of citizens to obtain materials in possession of the police. The case itself started when Jim filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a client in a criminal case that involved his client and the cops fighting each other in a Tim Horton's donut shop. Because discovery is not permitted in misdemeanor cases in Michigan, Jim's only avenue to obtain the police report and any other information was through the Freedom of Information Act, commonly known as FOIA.
After sending in his request, Jim received back from the Police Department a short police report and some squad car videos. However, unbeknownst to the police, Jim had been in contact with Tim Horton's corporate offices and had discovered that the videos of the Tim Horton's security cameras had been turned over to the Dearborn Police Department shortly after the incident. Then, while in court, Jim discovered that the prosecutor was in possession of the videos, but refused to turn them over. After some colorful exchanges on and off the record, Jim and high profile FOIA lawyer William Maze sued the City.
Although the City initially denied possession of the videos, they eventually lamented and turned over the requested discovery. In addition to the videos, the City also turned over a lengthy and mysterious police report written about the incident that was purposefully not provided as part of Jim 's lawful FOIA request. Afterwards, the City requested that the Circuit Court dismiss Jim's FOIA case, to which the Judge was happy to comply. Then Jim and William appealled to the Michigan Court of Appeals, who in a split decision, ruled in favor of the City.
A funny thing happened then when Jim appealed his case to the Michigan Supreme Court. Rather than rubber stamp a city and police department's clear violation of the law, the Court took the case and issued a Memorandum Opinion unanimously signed by all seven Supreme Court Justices. A Memorandum Opinion is rare and only takes place when the Court feels so strongly that one side has won that they dispense with oral arguments and immediately rule on the issue. And that's precisely what they did, holding that Jim was right the whole entire time and he is entitled to numerous damages, including attorneys fees, for the City's bad behavior!