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Case Name Satawa v. Macomb County Road Commission FA-MI-0003
Docket / Court 2:09-cv-14190-GER-PJK ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
For over 60 years, each Christmas, John Satawa and his family had displayed a nativity scene in the median strip of a county road in Warren, Michigan. In December 2008, the County Road Commission received a written complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The Road Commission acquiesced ... read more >
For over 60 years, each Christmas, John Satawa and his family had displayed a nativity scene in the median strip of a county road in Warren, Michigan. In December 2008, the County Road Commission received a written complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The Road Commission acquiesced to the complaint and denied Mr. Satawa a permit for 2009, prompting the filing of this federal lawsuit. The case was filed on October 23, 2009, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the Macomb County Road Commission. The plaintiff, represented by an attorney from the American Freedom law center and private counsel, sought declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. He alleged that the defendant's denial of his permit application to place a crèche on a median strip of a county road during the Christmas holiday season violated his rights under the Constitution's Free Speech clause, Establishment clause, and the Equal Protection clause.

On December 28, 2009, the District Court (Judge Gerald E. Rosen) denied Mr. Satawa's motion for a preliminary injunction. On April 19, 2011, Judge Rosen granted the Road Commission's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety. The plaintiff appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit.

On August 1, 2012, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Danny J. Boggs) agreed with the District Court's Establishment Clause holding against the plaintiff. However, the Court reversed the District Court's rulings on the plaintiff's Free Speech and Equal Protection claims. The Court of Appeals found that the median area constituted a traditional public forum, and therefore any restrictions on speech there would have to be narrowly tailored; the denial of the permit was NOT narrowly tailored, the Court of Appeals held, and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.

The parties settled the matter on November 29, 2012, and stipulated to dismiss the lawsuit. According to his lawyers' press release, Mr. Satawa installed his nativity scene that season. The voluntary dismissal was agreed to by the district court; the case was dismissed as of January 3, 2013.

Emma Bao - 06/03/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Establishment Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Defendant-type
Sanitation/Public Works
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Disparate Treatment
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Macomb County
Plaintiff Description Christian denied a permit to place a crèche on a median strip of a county road during the Christmas holiday season.
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 Unknown
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
2:09-cv-14190 (E.D. Mich.) 01/03/2012
FA-MI-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 10/23/2009
FA-MI-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Addressing Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction 12/28/2009 (687 F.Supp.2d 682) (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0003-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Vacating Show Cause Order 02/03/2010 (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0003-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Regarding Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment [Dismissing Case] 04/19/2011 (788 F.Supp.2d 579) (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0003-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment [Dismissing Case] 04/19/2011 (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0003-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
USCA Opinion [Affirming Grant of Summary Judgment and Reversing and Remanding Case] 08/01/2012 (689 F.3d 506)
FA-MI-0003-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Justia
Stipulation of Dismissal of Claims As Against Defendant Fran Gillett 11/29/2012
FA-MI-0003-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Sixty-Year Christmas Tradition Restored: Nativity Scene to Be Displayed Following Successful AFLC Lawsuit 11/29/2012
FA-MI-0003-0010.pdf | Detail
Stipulation of Dismissal 01/02/2013
FA-MI-0003-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Stipulation of Dismissal 01/03/2013 (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0003-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Boggs, Danny Julian (Sixth Circuit)
FA-MI-0003-0001
Cole, Ransey Guy Jr. (Sixth Circuit)
FA-MI-0003-0001
Komives, Paul J. (E.D. Mich., W.D. Mich.) [Magistrate]
FA-MI-0003-9000
Oliver, Solomon Jr. (N.D. Ohio)
FA-MI-0003-0001
Rosen, Gerald Ellis (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0003-0003 | FA-MI-0003-0004 | FA-MI-0003-0005 | FA-MI-0003-0006 | FA-MI-0003-0009 | FA-MI-0003-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Corbett, Keith E (Michigan)
FA-MI-0003-9000
Mersino, Erin Elizabeth (Michigan)
FA-MI-0003-0007 | FA-MI-0003-0008
Muise, Robert J. (Michigan)
FA-MI-0003-0002 | FA-MI-0003-0007 | FA-MI-0003-0008 | FA-MI-0003-9000
Thompson, Richard (Michigan)
FA-MI-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Aloia, Benjamin J (Michigan)
FA-MI-0003-0007 | FA-MI-0003-0008 | FA-MI-0003-9000
Other Lawyers Hessell, Danielle J (Michigan)
FA-MI-0003-9000

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