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Taxpayers & Citizens in the Pub. Interest v. State

Citation: 7 ELR 20075
No. No. 23011, 245 N.W.2d 761/(Mich. Ct. App., 08/03/1976)

The Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) grants trial courts "broad and unfettered" discretion to award costs and expert witness fees. Plaintiff, an environmental group, sought to rescind a sale of "excess land" by the state highway department to a private corporation. After defendant prevailed, the lower court granted costs and expert witness fees to the corporation. The appeals court declines an omnibus treatment of the costs issue. Instead, the court holds that MEPA falls within a statutory exception to the normal Michigan rule of awarding costs to the prevailing party. Although MEPA does not mandate an apportionment of costs, trial courts must exercise their discretion to award costs within MEPA's requirement that the "interests of justice" be met. Finally, MEPA supersedes the judicial policy of denying costs awards in public-question cases as an abuse of discretion.

Counsel for Plaintiff
James M. Olson
Olson, Dettmer & Bowerman
520 S. Union St.
Traverse City MI 49684
(616) 947-2912

Counsel for Defendant Michigan Department of State Highways
Frank J. Kelley, Attorney General
Janis Meija, Asst. Attorney General
525 W. Ottawa St.
Lansing MI 48913
(517) 373-1110

Counsel for Defendant Northern Michigan Inns, Inc.
Harry T. Running
Running, Wise & Wilson
326 State St.
Traverse City MI 49684
(616) 946-2700

Consel for Defendant Traverse City
Dennis L. Huntley
410 National Bank Bldg.
Traverse City MI 49684
(616) 946-1990

Counsel for Amici Curiae
West Michigan Environmental Action Council
University of Michigan Environmental Law Society
Peter W. Steketee
500 People's Bldg.
60 Monroe Ave., NW
Grand Rapids MI 49502
(616) 451-8341

Before R. B. BURNS, P.J., and KELLY and HUGHES,* JJ.