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Ann Mullen, 313-400-8562,

April 29, 2024


Detroit, Mich. – Today, the ACLU of Michigan sued the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) on behalf of a freelance investigative journalist whose public information requests were denied by the MDOC in violation of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  

The journalist, Daniel Moritz-Rabson, filed a FOIA request last year with the MDOC seeking a copy of video footage and other public records regarding an alleged incident of abuse and retaliation against Demetrius Buckley, who is incarcerated at the Handlon Correctional Facility. Mr. Buckley is an award-winning writer who works with Empowerment Avenue, a nonprofit organization that helps people in prison publish their work. Mr. Buckley wrote an article critical of the MDOC, which was published on August 23, 2023.  

A week after the article was published, Mr. Buckley contends that he was moved into a cell with a man who suffers from severe mental illness. Mr. Buckley says corrections officers do this as a form of punishment, according to the lawsuit. He said that his new cellmate attacked him and that the prison guards blamed Mr. Buckley for the altercation. The lawsuit also alleges that the guards then stripped and pepper-sprayed Mr. Buckley and placed him in solitary confinement. 

Empowerment Avenue contacted Mr. Moritz-Rabson about the alleged incident, which prompted him to file the FOIA requests seeking video footage of the incidents. MDOC denied the requests, as well as Moritz-Rabson's internal appeals, leading to the ACLU’s lawsuit.  

This is not the first time MDOC has violated FOIA and wrongly refused to release public records. In Woodman v. Michigan Department of Corrections, a nearly identical 2017 case, the ACLU successfully sued the MDOC for denying two other journalists’ requests for records related to an incident in which an incarcerated man died during an altercation with corrections officers and another prisoner. The court in that case ordered the MDOC to release the records, including video footage, and pay attorneys’ fees. 
“What happens in prisons is often shrouded in secrecy to the detriment of the people who are incarcerated,” said ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Dan Korobkin about the filing of today’s lawsuit. “Transparency and accountability are critical to ensuring that their rights and wellbeing are not abused. The freedom of the press to access public information is critical to penetrating the veil of secrecy and holding government agencies, and those who work on their behalf, accountable.” 

In addition to Korobkin, Moritz-Rabson is represented by ACLU cooperating attorneys Robert M. Riley, Rian C. Dawson, and Anna C. Transit from Honigman LLP. 

Read the lawsuit below.