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Case Name Saieg v. City of Dearborn FA-MI-0001
Docket / Court 2:09-cv-12321 ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
On June 16, 2009, Arabic Christian Perspective (ACP), a nonprofit with a self-described mission of “proclaiming the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslims”, filed this lawsuit against the City of Dearborn and its Chief of Police under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern ... read more >
On June 16, 2009, Arabic Christian Perspective (ACP), a nonprofit with a self-described mission of “proclaiming the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslims”, filed this lawsuit against the City of Dearborn and its Chief of Police under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Earlier that year, the Dearborn police department instituted a leafleting restriction for the Arab International Festival that permitted leafleting at the Festival only from a stationary booth and not while walking around the Festival. Each year prior to this ordinance, the plaintiffs had passed out pamphlets while walking around the festival to promote Christianity in an effort to convert the Muslims. The plaintiffs alleged in the complaint that this leafleting restriction violated their First Amendment rights to free speech, free association, free exercise of religion, and Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. The plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, permanent injunction enjoining the enforcement of the restriction, and nominal and compensatory damages.

On June 18, 2009 Judge Nancy Edmunds of the District Court denied the plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the restriction from going into effect before the 2009 Festival. Judge Edmunds concluded that the restriction was narrowly focused, still provided the plaintiffs’ access to the Festival to carry out their mission, and supported a legitimate government interest for crowd safety. Though only an order, without legal explanation, is available on the docket, reasoning for this decision can be found in 720 F.Supp.2d 817.

On July 7, 2009, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint including several exhibits of pictures from the Festival. On January 15, 2010, one of the plaintiffs, Arabic Christian Perspective, voluntarily dismissed itself from the case, leaving its founder and director as the sole plaintiff.

On March 15, 2010, the plaintiff moved for summary judgment and injunctive relief. The defendants also moved for summary judgment on April 9, 2010. At some point prior to the ruling on the motions, this case was transferred to District Court Judge Paul D. Borman.

On June 7, 2010, Judge Borman dismissed the case, granting the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and denying the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and injunctive relief. Specifically, he granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion as to the plaintiff’s First Amendment free speech claim because the leafleting restriction was a valid time, place, and manner restriction of speech, as it was content neutral and served a government interest in safety. He also granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion as to the plaintiff’s freedom of association claim because the restriction did not force or prevent the plaintiff’s from organizing during the event, and as to the plaintiff’s free exercise claim because the plaintiff did not address this claim in his summary judgment motion. Lastly, Judge Borman granted summary judgment in favor the defendants as to the plaintiff’s equal protection claim because the restriction was based on a location, not based on a specific message or idea. 720 F.Supp.2d 817.

Also on June 7, 2010, the plaintiff appealed to the Sixth Circuit. On June 17, 2010, the Court of Appeals (Judges Richard Suhrheinrich, Eugene Siler, and Eric Clay) granted the plaintiff’s motion for an injunction pending appeal., This order, pertaining only to the 2010 Festival, allowed the plaintiff to distribute leaflets from the outer sidewalks and roads, but not on the sidewalks that were directly adjacent to the Festival attractions.

On May 26, 2011, in a published opinion, Judge Karen Nelson Moore for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, reversed the District Court's grant of summary judgment to the defendants on the free speech claim, thereby invalidating the leafleting restriction within both the inner and outer perimeters of the Festival. The Court of Appeals held that the restriction on the sidewalks directly adjacent to the Festival attractions did not serve a substantial government interest. The City kept those same sidewalks open for public traffic and permit sidewalk vendors, whose activity was more obstructive to sidewalk traffic flow than pedestrian leafleting. Moreover, the prohibition of pedestrian leafleting in the outer perimeter was not narrowly tailored to the goal of isolating inner areas from vehicular traffic. The City could be held liable because the Chief of Police, who instituted the leafleting restriction, created official municipal policy. 641 F.3d. 727.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's judgment for the defendants on all other claims. The case was remanded to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. 641 F.3d. 727.

Back in the District Court, on June 14, 2010, Judge Borman entered a judgment in accordance with the Court of Appeals opinion. Judge Borman reversed his previous order, now granting the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment as to the First Amendment free speech claim and permanently enjoining the defendants and anyone in concert with the defendants from enforcing the leafleting restriction.

A satisfaction of judgment was entered by Judge Borman on February 27, 2012 and on March 9, 2012, Judge Borman adopted the recommendations by Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen to award the plaintiff $1.00 in nominal damages and $103,401.96 in cost and attorney fees. The case is now closed.

Joshua Arocho - 06/26/2012
Mackenzie Walz - 11/29/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Dearborn Police Chief
The City of Dearborn
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are Arabic Christian Perspective, a religious, non-profit organization, and its founder, who distributed leaflets at the Arab International Festival in the City of Dearborn, Michigan.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Case Closing Year 2010
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
2:09-cv-12321-PDB-RSW (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/09/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
FA-MI-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/16/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 13]
FA-MI-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/07/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opnion and Order (1) Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (2) Denying Plaintiff's Request for Injunctive Relief, and (3) Granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 57] (720 F.Supp.2d 817) (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/07/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
6th Circuit Opinion (641 F.3d 727)
FA-MI-0001-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/26/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Borman, Paul D. (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0001-0005 | FA-MI-0001-9000
Moore, Karen Nelson (Sixth Circuit)
FA-MI-0001-0008
Whalen, R. Steven (E.D. Mich.) [Magistrate]
FA-MI-0001-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Becker, William J. (Louisiana)
FA-MI-0001-9000
Mersino, Erin Elizabeth (Michigan)
FA-MI-0001-9000
Muise, Robert J. (Michigan)
FA-MI-0001-0001 | FA-MI-0001-0002 | FA-MI-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Ellerbrake, Laurie M. (Illinois)
FA-MI-0001-9000
Zalewski, Matthew J. (Michigan)
FA-MI-0001-9000

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