Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is a respected civil rights advocate with a proven record of defending vulnerable people against discrimination, violence, and abuse. As a former prosecutor, she investigated cases involving child sexual abuse, internet crimes, and fatal shootings of civilians by police officers. In 2016, she co-founded the Fair Michigan Justice Project to combat hate crimes and successfully litigated for major LGBTQ issues that helped advance civil rights for same-sex couples. Elected as Attorney General in 2018 as part of the inaugural class of DAGA’s 1881 Initiative, General Nessel is focused on defending labor rights, protecting access to affordable healthcare, combating hate crimes, seeking justice for sexual abuse victims, and safeguarding Michigan’s land and waterways.
General Nessel’s major actions (and wins) in:
- DEFENDING WORKERS’ RIGHTS
It was reported in 2017 that almost $429 million in total wages went unpaid to Michigan workers and that some employers classified employees as independent contracts, thereby lowering the cost and value of unemployment insurance benefits. Keeping her campaign promise to support workers and labor unions, General Nessel created a new payroll fraud enforcement unit that would address such issues of wage theft, overtime pay theft, and other forms of payroll abuse committed by employers. In July 2019, she joined a coalition of 17 other AGs urging the Federal Trade Commission to support workers’ rights against anticompetitive labor practices that lower wages and limit job opportunities. In Michigan, she was unanimously endorsed by the United Automobile Workers for her commitment to protect the labor rights for Michigan’s auto industry workers and others.
- PROTECTING THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
When the Affordable Care Act came under attack by the federal district court ruling in Texas v. US declaring it unconstitutional, General Nessel joined a coalition of states and healthcare advocates to appeal the decision on behalf of the $1.7 million Michiganders who have pre-existing conditions and over 700,000 who rely on the ACA for their health insurance. Oral arguments were heard in the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans in July 2019. The fate of the ACA remains unknown, but General Nessel and her fellow Democratic attorneys general are committed to continuing the fight to protect healthcare coverage for millions of Americans.
- COMBATING HATE CRIMES AGAINST MINORITY MEMBERS
In response to the rise of extremist groups and hate crimes around the country (specifically in Michigan, which according to FBI statistics, saw a nearly 30% uptick in 2017), General Nessel created a new hate crimes unit tasked with prosecuting crimes motivated by bias. As a former civil rights advocate and litigator, General Nessel is committed to fighting extremism and hate crimes against vulnerable members, including the LGBTQ community, the Muslim community, and other minority groups.
- STANDING WITH SEXUAL ABUSE SURIVORS
General Nessel stands with survivors of sexual abuse and is committed to using the authority of the Office of Attorney General to hold sexual abusers accountable, whether they belong to the Catholic Church or are employed by Michigan State University. As of July 2019, she charged six priests with criminal sexual conduct after findings from her clergy abuse investigative team revealed chronic abuse in several dioceses in Michigan. She reaffirmed her commitment to seek justice for all victims by stating that this is “just the tip of the iceberg.”
She is also working to making sure that Michigan State University is continuing to be investigated thoroughly for its mishandling of sexual assault complaints against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. She spoke critically of the university’s decision to conduct an independent investigation using the same law firm that defends it during civil lawsuits, citing evidence that shows the school’s record of engaging in cover-ups for its employees in the past. She also accused the university for “stonewalling” the investigation conducted by her office, specifically by calling out the university president, John Engler, for avoiding interviews yet making time to attend basketball games.
- PRESERVING MICHIGAN’S WATER
General Nessel has pledged to enforce basic environmental laws that protect Michigan’s land and waterways. Since assuming office, she prompted a revamped probe into the Flint water crisis that required dismissal of all pending criminal charges after evidence came to light showing inadequacies in the previous administration’s investigation. As of July 2019, her new team of prosecutors is probing into two engineering consultant firms, LAN and Veolia, that allegedly played pivotal roles in causing the water crisis through reckless behavior such as recommending the city to dump large amounts of ferric chloride into its water supply. General Nessel is seeking to find meaningful justice for the people of Flint that is independent of any political bias and to hold all possible actors accountable for the crisis.
Another pressing environmental issue that is affecting Michiganders today is the 66-year-old oil pipeline across the Straits of Mackinac that many environmentalists and concerned citizens have called out for being a threat to the Great Lakes due to its possibility of rupture. In fact, the pipeline has leaked at least 33 times in the past. In June 2019, General Nessel filed a lawsuit calling for the shutdown of Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 to safeguard the Great Lakes ecosystem and prioritize Michigan’s environmental health.
General Nessel in the press:
- The Detroit News: Nessel: Engineering firms played “seminal role” in creating Flint water crisis. Beth LeBlanc, 7/16/2019.
- Detroit Metro Times: AG Nessel charges a Sixth Catholic Priest with criminal sexual conduct. Sonia Khaleel, 7/8/2019
- Detroit Free Press: Dana Nessel wants big changes in Michigan Attorney General’s Office. Kathleen Gray, 1/8/2019.