Fair and Equitable Justice
The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office is committed to the fair and evenhanded administration of justice for everyone—irrespective of sex, race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, immigration status, or socioeconomic status. We know, fundamentally, that public safety depends on the trust of the communities we serve.
Towards that end, we regularly support efforts to ensure a fair and equitable justice system. Learn more about our efforts by reading our briefs and statements below.
August 4, 2023: Amicus Brief Supporting Legal Protections for Conviction Integrity Units
On August 4, 2023, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office joined a brief supporting the effective functioning of conviction integrity units in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office and the Oakland and Macomb County Prosecutor’s Offices were also on the brief.
Conviction Integrity Units (CIUs) are special units in prosecutors’ offices that investigate and remedy wrongful convictions. The issue in the case was whether the legal protections that all prosecutors enjoy should extend to CIU prosecutors. The brief argued that they should—highlighting that “preventing and remedying wrongful convictions is not some junior-varsity function of prosecution.” It is, instead, a core part of every prosecutor’s duties.
March 29, 2023: Formal Comment Urging DEA to Reconsider Restrictions on Buprenorphine Prescribed via Telemedicine
On March 29, 2023, Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit filed a formal comment with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on behalf of himself and 22 other law-enforcement leaders from around the country. The comment urged DEA to reconsider a proposed administrative rule that would make it more difficult for patients to obtain buprenorphine—a medicine used by those struggling with opioid addiction.
As the comment noted, buprenorphine is a medicine that is used by people who are already addicted to opioids. The medication is safe and effective at controlling cravings and managing withdrawals. Patients do not experience a euphoric high, and it is virtually impossible to overdose on buprenorphine. Thus, buprenorphine is a “lifeline” for many. And most people who use buprenorphine do so as an alternative to deadly drugs like heroin or fentanyl.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors have been able to prescribe buprenorphine via telehealth. That has made the lifesaving medication available to people who lack access to transportation, live in rural areas, or are otherwise unable to access in-person care. The proposed DEA rule, however, would limit patients to a single 30-day supply of buprenorphine prescribed via telehealth. Lawful access to medication would be cut off after 30 days if a patient does not receive an in-person consultation.
The comment contends that this rule change will do more harm than good. It will needlessly cut off access to a potentially life-saving medication for those who need it. It will cause many to backslide into using deadly drugs like fentanyl. What is more, it will counterproductively increase the demand for buprenorphine on the black market—making it so that more people are using buprenorphine without any medical supervision, and increasing the potential for exposure to contaminated drugs.
September 21, 2022: Amicus Brief Supporting Work Product Protections for Conviction Integrity Units
On September 21, 2022, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit filed a brief supporting the effective functioning of conviction integrity units in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The brief was filed on behalf of himself, the prosecuting attorneys in Macomb and Oakland County, and the Michigan Department of the Attorney General.
Conviction Integrity Units (CIUs) are special units in prosecutors’ offices that investigate and remedy wrongful convictions. The issue in the case was whether the “work product” of CIUs—like work-product for any lawyer—is privileged and confidential. The brief argued that CIUs must be able to conduct investigations and pursue leads with the assurance of confidence, without concern that their internal thoughts or opinions will be made public. The brief argued that if CIU lawyers were not protected by work-product privilege, it would chill their ability to pursue justice without fear or favor, and ultimately could result in more innocent people remaining behind bars.
September 24, 2021: 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.
August 17, 2021: 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.
August 12, 2021: 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.
July 1, 2021: 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.
April 22, 2021: 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.
April 8, 2021: 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.
March 5, 2021: 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.
February 25, 2021: 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.
January 25, 2021: 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.