Amicus Briefing and Advocacy
As the chief elected attorney in Washtenaw County, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office is committed to providing its perspective in cases involving issues impacting the safety, health, and well-being of Washtenaw residents. The Prosecutor’s Office takes these stances through the filing of written “amicus” briefs in courts, which provide the Prosecuting Attorney’s perspective.
In addition, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office often joins with other prosecuting attorneys and law-enforcement leaders to provide perspective on major issues of public importance. These amicus briefs and statements are available for public to read.
Amicus Brief Urging U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Safehouse Overdose-Prevention Case
On September 24, 2021, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office joined thirteen cities and counties from across the United States on an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court urging the Court to reverse a decision that would prevent Philadelphia from operating an overdose-prevention (safe injection) site. The brief noted that the opioid epidemic is killing thousands of people per year—and the increased availability of deadly drugs like fentanyl have exacerbated that risk. Across the world, overdose-prevention sites have been used to prevent overdoses, and to ensure people don’t die. Indeed, there has not been a single recorded overdose death at an overdose prevention site, anywhere in the world.
Under former President Trump, however, the United States Department of Justice challenged Philadelphia’s attempt to open an overdose-prevention site, and won a decision stopping Philadelphia in the lower courts. The Supreme Court brief joined by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office argues in support of Philadelphia, noting that shuttering overdose-prevention sites will prevent local units of government from taking concrete action to save lives.
Amicus Brief Urging United States Supreme Court to Re-Affirm Roe v. Wade
On September 20, 2021, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit—joined by nearly 100 current and former prosecutors, judges, and law-enforcement leaders—filed an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. That is the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide a challenge to Roe v. Wade, which establishes a constitutional right to an abortion.
The brief urged the Court to uphold Roe. It highlighted that overruling Roe would revitalize laws in many states (including Michigan) that criminalize reproductive freedom. That would create a patchwork of inconsistent and arbitrary laws across the nation, and would divert resources away from protecting communities—and towards senselessly punishing them.
In addition, the brief highlighted that overruling Roe would not end abortion. Instead, it would simply make abortion more dangerous, and put the lives of predominantly poorer pregnant people at risk. Further, the brief emphasized that overruling a canonical case that has been relied upon for the most personal decisions for 50 years will severely erode trust in the legal system.
Joint Letter Urging Task Force on 21st Century Prosecution
On August 17, 2021, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit joined over 100 law enforcement leaders from across the country urging the Biden-Harris Administration to create a Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Prosecution, to address the inequities and injustices that arise from our current criminal legal system.
Amicus Brief in Michigan Supreme Court Juvenile Fingerprinting Case
On August 12, 2021, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office filed a brief on behalf of itself, the University of Michigan Juvenile Justice Clinic, and Washtenaw County My Brother’s Keeper in the Michigan Supreme Court case Johnson v. Vanderkooi. That case involves a constitutional challenge to a policy, maintained by the Grand Rapids Police Department, of photographing and fingerprinting anyone without a government-issued photo ID—even if there was no suspicion that person had committed a crime.
The brief argued that this “photograph-and-fingerprint” procedure disproportionately affects young people—particularly children and adolescents of color—who are unlikely to have photo ID. Citing research and data, the brief highlighted how intrusive and unnecessarily prolonged police encounters can traumatize young people, and that such encounters make it more likely that young people will commit crimes. In addition, the brief highlighted how unnecessarily intrusive police stops erode community trust in law enforcement, making it less likely that crime will be reported and that victims and witnesses will testify in serious cases.
The brief urged the Michigan Supreme Court to hold that such procedures, when carried out when there is no suspicion a person committed a crime, violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Amicus Brief Urging an End to Unnecessary Use of Deadly Police Force
On July 1, 2021, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office joined 66 other prosecutors and police leaders from across the nation, as well as the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, on a brief urging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to make clear that police should not be able to kill people who are fleeing arrest but are not dangerous. The brief argues that a Pennsylvania law which governs the use of deadly force by police officers cannot be read in a manner inconsistent with United States Supreme Court precedent. The Supreme Court has expressly held that deadly force is permissible only when needed to prevent an immediate threat of serious harm or death to the officer or others.
Joint Statement Condemning Criminalization of Transgender People
On June 29, 2021, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit jointed 75 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders on a joint statement condemning efforts by state legislatures across the country to criminalize transgender people and gender-affirming healthcare. The statement emphasized that these efforts serve no legitimate purpose, erode trust that is critical to protecting communities, and ultimately, pose a threat to public safety.
The signatories to the statement, including Prosecutor Savit, pledged not to use “scarce criminal justice and law enforcement resources on criminalization of doctors who offer medically necessary, safe gender-affirming care to trans youth, parents who safeguard their child’s health and wellbeing by seeking out such treatments, or any individuals who use facilities aligned with their gender identity.”
Op-Ed Urging an End to Local Immigration Enforcement
On May 3, 2021, Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit co-authored an op-ed in USA Today urging an end to state and local involvement in federal immigration enforcement. The op-ed argued that when local law enforcement officers perform the duties of federal immigration officials, it destroys trust in immigrant communities—and makes noncitizens less likely to report serious crimes. The op-ed urged an end to the federal 287(g) program, which enlists local law enforcement agencies to engage in federal immigration enforcement. The op-ed was co-authored by RaShall M. Brackney, Charlottesville (VA) Chief of Police, and Miriam Aroni Krinsky, the executive director of Fair & Just Prosecution and a former federal prosecutor.
Joint Statement on Clean Slate Initiatives
On April 22, 2021, Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit joined over 80 elected prosecutors and law-enforcement leaders urging policymakers to expand so-called “clean slate” initiatives that automatically expunge and seal criminal records. The statement highlights the immense and often lifelong collateral consequences resulting from a criminal record, including challenges obtaining employment, housing, public assistance, and education.
Joint Statement Regarding Overly Harsh Sentences
On April 8, 2021, Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit joined over 60 elected prosecutors and law-enforcement leaders from across the country urging policymakers to create mechanisms to release from prison those serving lengthy sentences who pose little or no risk to public safety. The letter cites decades of research which shows that overly harsh prison sentences are costly, and do little to promote public safety.
Amicus Brief Opposing Tenant Harassment
On March 25, 2021, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office joined 18 local governments from across the nation on a brief supporting New York City’s Residential Anti-Harassment Law. The brief argued that laws which prevent landlords from harassing their tenants into vacating their units are key to ensuring public health and safety—particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joint Letter Urging an End to Local Immigration Enforcement
On March 17, 2021, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit joined over 100 elected prosecutors, sheriffs, police leaders, and criminal justice professionals in a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security to end programs that use local and state police to conduct federal immigration enforcement. The letter highlighted that local involvement in immigration enforcement erodes community trust—particularly in immigrant communities—and makes it far less likely that serious crimes will be reported to the police.
Amicus Brief Supporting Safehouse Overdose-Prevention Site
On March 5, 2021, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office joined thirteen cities and counties from across the United States on an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit supporting Philadelphia’s Safehouse overdose-prevention (safe injection) site. The brief noted that the opioid epidemic is killing thousands of people per year—and the increased availability of deadly drugs like fentanyl have exacerbated that risk. Across the world, overdose-prevention sites have been used to prevent overdoses, and to ensure people don’t die. Indeed, there has not been a single recorded overdose death at an overdose prevention site, anywhere in the world.
Under former President Trump, however, the United States Department of Justice challenged Philadelphia’s attempt to open an overdose-prevention site. The brief joined by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office argues in support of Philadelphia, noting that shuttering overdose-prevention sites will prevent local units of government from taking concrete action to save lives.
Joint Letter to MSHDA Supporting Housing Access for Returning Citizens
On February 25, 2021, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, Sheriff Jerry Clayton, Chief Trial Court Judge Carol Kuhnke, and Chief Public Defender Delphia Simpson submitted a joint letter to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The letter urged MSHDA to remove any requirements, over and above those required by federal law, that preclude people with criminal backgrounds or a history of substance use from obtaining public housing vouchers.
The letter emphasized that stable housing is a key to preventing recidivism, and to ensuring the provision of mental-health and substance-use treatment. Ultimately, the letter concluded, removing barriers to housing will make our community safer.
Amicus Brief Supporting Immigrant Trust Directive
On February 15, 2021, the Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney joined 72 law-enforcement leaders from across the nation on an amicus brief in support of New Jersey’s Immigrant Trust Directive. The Immigrant Trust Directive prevents local law enforcement from arresting, questioning, or detaining any individual based on their immigration status—and prevents prosecutors from using a person’s immigration status against them. The brief argues that it is imperative for local law enforcement to build trust in immigrant communities, and that undermining that trust hampers the ability to ensure public safety.
Amicus Brief in Michigan Supreme Court Consumer Protection Case
On February 5, 2021, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office filed a brief on behalf of itself and a group of other Michigan prosecutors in Cyr v. Ford Motor Company—a case involving Michigan’s consumer protection laws. The brief argued that, over time, the Supreme Court has adopted an unnecessarily restrictive reading of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. That, in turn, has hampered prosecutors’ ability to fight consumer abuse
The brief urged the court to consider the case, and to clarify the scope of Michigan’s consumer-protection law.
The brief was joined by the Prosecuting Attorneys from Alger, Chippewa, Genesee, Ingham, and Marquette Counties.
Joint Statement Urging End to Federal Death Penalty
On January 25, 2021, the Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney joined nearly 100 criminal justice leaders to urge President Biden to take immediate and definitive steps to end the federal death penalty.
Joint Statement Condemning Capitol Insurrection
On January 8, 2021, the Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney joined over 60 attorneys general and elected prosecutors to condemn the January 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol, and to urge all elected leaders to immediately accept the results of the 2020 election.