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Download Opinion - April 22, 2008

Download Legal Brief - October 18, 2007

Download Legal Brief - October 16, 2007

Download Legal Brief - January 27, 2005

View Legal Update - Summer 2005

Download Legal Brief Document 107 - November 20, 2006

Download Legal Brief Document 108 - November 20, 2006


On April 21, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled unanimously in favor of the Great Lakes Exploration Group, LLC (GLEG), to protect federal admiralty jurisdiction over historic shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. The decision directed the District Court to proceed with the arrest of the shipwreck, as GLEG had requested. The administration of the admiralty arrest prevents the state from taking possession of the ship before salvage rights and jurisdiction have been determined. GLEG had resisted revealing the exact location of what Libert believes to be the 15th century ship, LeGriffon, prior to an admiralty arrest. The ruling of the Appeals Court agreed with GLEG that “disclosing the location of the shipwreck before federal jurisdiction was secured creates a risk that the state may take actual possession of the vessel in an attempt to divest the federal court of jurisdiction over the salvor’s claims.”

The Appeals Court’s ruling reversed an earlier decision by the District Court for the Western District of Michigan that had ordered GLEG to disclose the exact location of the shipwreck to the State of Michigan prior to the arrest of the vessel.


In November, 2006, Judge Robert Holmes Bell dismissed
the case based on Great Lakes’ position that it would not
give up the exact location of the artifacts unless and until adequate protections were in place to protect the historical, archaeological and scientific value of the shipwreck site. Great Lakes has filed an appeal addressing the issue of whether it is proper to expose a shipwreck site of great historical, archaeological and scientific value by requiring
the release of the specific location of artifacts without first providing adequate legal protection for the site by an admiralty arrest taking court jurisdiction over the site.

Briefs will be submitted beginning in late Spring, and the Court will then set a briefing schedule. Although it is difficult to predict the Court’s schedule, a decision is likely before
the end of the year.


On September 21, 2005, Great Lakes Exploration filed a motion asking for leave to file an amendment to the pleadings. The amendment proposed to specifically identify the defendant as the Griffon, and to provide a more precise location.

The State of Michigan opposed the motion, filing a lengthy memorandum setting forth its objections. The State continued to argue that it is the sole owner of the Griffon, and that, therefore, amending the complaint was “futile.” It also argued that the amended complaint did not comply with the Court’s prior directives.

On October 20, 2005, the District Court overruled the objections of the State of Michigan to the filing of Great Lakes Exploration’s Second Amended Complaint, and the Court granted Great Lakes’ Motion. The Court further ordered the State of Michigan to file an answer within 28 days.

In the meantime, Great Lakes Exploration and the State of Michigan have reached an agreement in principle to allow the identification phase of Great Lakes Exploration’s project to go forward. The exploration will seek to determine whether the target is the Griffon. If it is, then the Court will then need to address the issue of ownership.

It is currently expected that the identification phase will be underway in early to mid-Summer, 2006. Scientists and archaeologists from the Republic of France, the Field Museum, and the State of Michigan will be invited to participate, along with those of Great Lakes Exploration.
It is not currently known when the phase will be completed.