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Case Name American Freedom Defense Initiative v. MTA FA-NY-0004
Docket / Court 1:11-cv-06774-PAE ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) is a pro-Israeli advocacy organization, known for its provocative writing on Middle East affairs. AFDI submitted a pro-Israeli political ad to the local Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for display on the exterior of MTA's vehicles. MTA later ... read more >
American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) is a pro-Israeli advocacy organization, known for its provocative writing on Middle East affairs. AFDI submitted a pro-Israeli political ad to the local Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for display on the exterior of MTA's vehicles. MTA later rejected the submission under its No-Demeaning Standard. The Standard allowed MTA to reject some but not all ads depending whether they demeaned certain disfavored individuals or groups. However, MTA permitted display of anti-Israeli ads, which allegedly contained demeaning content. In light of that, AFDI sued MTA in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. The complaint was filed on September 27, 2011. AFDI, represented by public interest lawyers, claimed that MTA's censorship was unconstitutional, in violation of the Free Speech Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.

On July 20, 2012, the District Court (Judge Paul A. Engelmayer) held that MTA's No-Demeaning Standard was unconstitutional. Am. Freedom Def. Initiative v. Metro. Transp. Auth., 880 F. Supp. 2d 456, 459 (S.D.N.Y. 2012), appeal dismissed (Sept. 25, 2012). The Court further granted AFDI a preliminary injunction preventing MTA from enforcing its No-Demeaning Standard. The Court found that the exterior of the mass transit vehicles a public forum, and that the Standard overly differentiated speech based on its content and target, inconsistent with the First Amendment. MTA appealed this decision to the Second Circuit.

On August 29, 2012, the Court (Judge Engelmayer) converted the existing preliminary injunction to a permanent injunction. Am. Freedom Def. Initiative v. Metro. Transp. Auth., 889 F. Supp. 2d 606 (S.D.N.Y. 2012). In addition, the Court granted a declaratory judgment that MTA's No-Demeaning Standard violated the First Amendment and nominal damages in sum of $1 to AFDI, unopposed by MTA.

Subsequently, MTA voluntarily withdrew its appeal and reached an agreement with AFDI on attorneys' fees and litigation costs. The parties jointly informed the Court of their settlement on October 16, 2012. This ended the case.

Emma Bao - 07/01/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Transportation
Discrimination-area
Accommodation / Leave
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Disparate Treatment
Government Services (specify)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) State of New York
Plaintiff Description A pro-Israeli advocacy organization, whose submission of a provocative political ad was rejected by the local Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Declaratory Judgment
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration 2012 - n/a
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:11-cv-06774-PAE (S.D.N.Y.) 10/18/2012
FA-NY-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 09/27/2011
FA-NY-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion & Order [Granting Preliminary Injunction] 07/20/2012 (880 F.Supp.2d 456) (S.D.N.Y.)
FA-NY-0004-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying Stay Pending Appeal] 08/06/2012 (S.D.N.Y.)
FA-NY-0004-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion & Order [Granting Permanent Injunction] 08/29/2012 (889 F.Supp.2d 606) (S.D.N.Y.)
FA-NY-0004-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Endorsed Letter 09/28/2012
FA-NY-0004-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Closing Case] 10/16/2012 (S.D.N.Y.)
FA-NY-0004-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Engelmayer, Paul Adam (S.D.N.Y.)
FA-NY-0004-0001 | FA-NY-0004-0003 | FA-NY-0004-0004 | FA-NY-0004-0005 | FA-NY-0004-0006 | FA-NY-0004-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Mersino, Erin Elizabeth (Michigan)
FA-NY-0004-9000
Muise, Robert J. (Michigan)
FA-NY-0004-0002 | FA-NY-0004-9000
Yerushalmi, David Eliezer (New York)
FA-NY-0004-0002 | FA-NY-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Schoolman, Richard (New York)
FA-NY-0004-9000
Sistrom, Peter A. (New York)
FA-NY-0004-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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