MIDLAND, Mich. — Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff, represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, has reached a settlement agreement with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services after it failed to provide public records
as required by law. The health department agreed to release a portion of the public records LeDuff requested and acknowledged that it is unable to determine if some people who died of COVID-19 contracted the virus at a nursing home or other long-term
After noticing that state data was showing a growing number of deaths reported from reviews of vital records, LeDuff submitted a Freedom of Information Act request asking for the ages of those who had died, the date of death, when each death was added
to the state total and whether any of those deaths were the results of contracting COVID-19 at a long-term care facility. MDHHS failed to produce the records in response to the request, so LeDuff contacted the Mackinac Center to represent him in a
“We stood up to Goliath and won,” said LeDuff. “While I'm pleased that some of the records were released, the state's overall response is alarming and disappointing. Still, this is a win for the people of Michigan, and I'm glad this lawsuit was able to
shed some light.”
In response to the lawsuit, MDHHS has now provided records for the ages of the deceased and the dates of their deaths. Due to inadequate tracking, however, the department was unable to provide the dates a specific vital record death was added to the state’s
tally, as well as whether the deceased contracted COVID-19 at a long-term care facility.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to assist Mr. LeDuff in resolving this case, and we are glad that MDHHS chose to produce this data without further litigation,” said Steve Delie, an attorney and the Mackinac Center’s FOIA expert. “Government transparency
is essential, particularly during a pandemic, and we will continue to represent individuals like Mr. LeDuff to ensure the public has full and complete access to records.”
LeDuff plans to continue looking into the reporting and accuracy of the state’s data on COVID-19 deaths.
“This data is an essential part of accurately understanding the effects of this pandemic and the public policy implemented in response,” said Delie. “It also leaves open the possibility that the state is undercounting the number of deaths of those in
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonprofit research and educational institute that advances the principles of free markets and limited government. Through our research and education programs, we challenge government overreach and advocate for a free-market approach to public policy that frees people to realize their potential and dreams.
Please consider contributing to our work to advance a freer and more prosperous state.