Environmental Injustice/Racism in Flint, Michigan: An Analysis of the Bodily Integrity Claim in Mays v. Snyder as Compared to Other Environmental Justice Cases
This Note examines the merits of the “bodily integrity” claim that the Flint residents have alleged in Mays (but does not discuss any claims asserted in Earley, the case Mays was consolidated with on appeal), and asserts that they should be successful on this claim on remand, assuming that the facts alleged in the Flint residents’ complaint are true. This Note outlines the alleged facts and then discusses the existing case law on bodily integrity claims generally, both in the non-environmental justice and environmental justice fields. Following is an explanation of the specific bodily integrity claim the Flint residents have made and an application of the existing case law (from both the non-environmental justice and environmental justice fields) to the alleged facts. Lastly, this Note compares this federal Flint case to the parallel Flint-related state class action suit filed with the Michigan Court of Claims. Although there might be some legal hurdles that the Flint residents will have to overcome, their bodily integrity claim can be successful on remand and will likely not be precluded by federal statute if appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result, similar bodily integrity claims should be used as a remedy for contamination of other public drinking water sources across the country. The Flint residents should be able to establish that: (1) defendants’ actions occurred “under color of state law,” and (2) a constitutional right exists and was deprived. The Flint residents can best establish this by showing that defendants’ conduct was “outrageous and shocking” to the point where it “shocks the conscience” of the judiciary, as the defendants’ actions exhibited “deliberate indifference” to plaintiffs’ rights to clean water. On remand, no deference should be given to the district judge’s initial dismissal of the case because the district court made virtually no findings of fact and did not consider the merits of whether defendants actually violated the Flint residents’ established constitutional right to bodily integrity. Within the environmental justice context specifically, the magnitude of defendants’ intrusion on plaintiffs’ bodily integrity rights far outweighs the public health benefit (if there is any in this case) and its innocuous effect on the Flint residents resulting from defendants’ actions.
Recommended CitationJoshua V. Berliner, Environmental Injustice/Racism in Flint, Michigan: An Analysis of the Bodily Integrity Claim in Mays v. Snyder as Compared to Other Environmental Justice Cases, 35 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 108 (2017)
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