Amicus Brief

Torger Omdahl v West Iron County Board of Education, et al

Case Year: 2007
Case Forum: Michigan Supreme Court
Keywords: Open Meetings Act (OMA), attorneys fees, closed meeting
Amicus Counsel:

Brad A. Banasik | General Counsel Michigan Association of School Boards | 1001 Centennial Way Suite 400 | Lansing, MI 48917 | 517-327-5929

CoAmicus Parties:

1. Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB)
2. State Bar of Michigan Public Corporation Section (PCLS)


The Defendants violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to take closed session minutes. Closed meeting minutes have little or no value to the public or a public body. Because public bodies are prohibited from making a “decision” in a closed meeting, MCL 15.263(2), the minutes of such meetings are traditionally brief and include very little substance. The minutes
must only include the following information: (l) date, time, and place of the meeting; (2) board members present and absent; and (3) the purpose of the closed session, which is also included in the minutes of the open meeting where the decision is made to go into closed session. OAG, 1993-1994, No 6817, p 190 (September 14, 1994). Furthermore, closed meeting minutes are not available to the public and may only be disclosed if required by court order. MCL 15.267(2). Because of the insignificance of closed meeting minutes, the Defendants
violation had no public impact. The OMA should not be used to promote private interests. Such interests, which could emanate from a rule that authorizes awards of counsel fees to attorneys appearing in propria persona, will have little effect on
promoting governmental accountability and awareness of public concerns, which are the foundational purposes of the Act. An award of attorney fees is intended to relieve plaintiffs of the burden of legal costs, not reward successful claimants or
penalize the government.


At issue in this case is whether a pro se litigant, who is also an attorney, may recover “court costs and actual attorney fees,” MCL 15.271(4), after he or she brings a successful action under the Open Meetings Act. We conclude that because an attorney is defined as an agent of another person, there must be separate identities between the attorney and the client before the litigant may recover actual attorney fees. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals that held to the contrary, and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? Yes

Torger Omdahl, an attorney proceeding in propria persona, sued his former client, the West Iron County Board of Education, for violations of the Open Meetings Act (OMA), MCL 15.261 et seq. The trial court granted judgment for Omdahl, ruling that the board violated the OMA by failing to take minutes at two closed sessions. However, the trial court denied Omdahl’s request for attorney fees. Omdahl appealed.
The Court of Appeals, in a divided decision, reversed the denial of attorney fees and costs.

Case Number: 2006-07
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