DETROIT — The Michigan Supreme Court stopped a man from suing the state after he spent more than a year in prison for a crime that wasn’t a crime.
The man was behind bars for 17 months for failing to provide accurate information for Michigan’s sex offender registry. The Corrections Department then discovered that he actually wasn’t required to register.
The man sued the state, arguing that his constitutional rights were violated. The Supreme Court heard arguments in April but dropped the case in a 4-3 decision Wednesday.
It means a 2019 appeals court opinion in the state’s favor will stand, killing the lawsuit.
“The citizens of Michigan would be surprised indeed to learn that Michigan law provides no recourse for blatantly lawless incarceration,” Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said in a blunt dissent.
The Associated Press isn’t naming the man because he was 16 when he was accused of fourth-degree criminal sexual misconduct, a misdemeanor.
He was required to register as a sex offender for 25 years as a condition of his conviction in Hillsdale County Juvenile Court. But in 2011, the Legislature said certain offenders no longer had to register. No one, however, told the man or removed his name. He continued to register but twice had problems with police over providing information.
He was sent to prison in 2014. After more than a year, a Corrections Department employee “became aware that (he) was imprisoned for a non-existent crime,” said the man’s attorney, William Goodman.
The man’s lawsuit alleged his rights were violated by a failure to properly train and supervise employees who oversee the sex offender registry. But the Michigan appeals court said there was no certainty that a person mistakenly on the list would be arrested.
The Supreme Court dismissed the man’s appeal in a two-sentence order, which is different than a formal opinion but just as binding. Justices David Viviano, Brian Zahra, Stephen Markman and Elizabeth Clement were in the majority.
“We’re very disappointed in the failure of the legal system to respond to injustice,” Goodman said Thursday.
The man, 36, still has a federal lawsuit pending against Hillsdale County officials and state police employees. He also received roughly $70,000 under Michigan’s wrongful conviction law for time spent in prison.
“In my opinion, he’s entitled to considerably more,” Goodman said.