On June 1, a Michigan federal judge once again held that the Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas front group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), must pay legal fees and costs after the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) successfully “quashed” harassing and burdensome subpoenas issued by CAIR to Ms. Zaba Davis, a private citizen who received the subpoenas because she publicly expressed her opposition to the construction of an Islamic center in her neighborhood. This was the third ruling by the court upholding what it termed a “sanction” for CAIR’s reckless violation of federal law.
“Apparently, hell hath no fury like a Muslim Brotherhood ‘civil rights’ organization scorned,” remarked David Yerushalmi, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of AFLC. “This was CAIR’s third bite at objecting to the sanction. You’d think they’d concede this one rather than continue to run up our legal fees with each new frivolous objection they file.”
Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented: “Private citizens have a fundamental First Amendment right to express to their elected officials their personal views on matters of public concern. CAIR’s ruthless attacks demonstrate that its objectives are dangerously at odds with the Constitution. Consequently, this reaffirmation by the court sanctioning CAIR’s lawless behavior was important not only for our clients, but for all private citizens who want to speak out against CAIR.”
“CAIR employs egregious lawfare tactics to frighten honest citizens so as to prevent them from exercising their constitutional rights,” Yerushalmi explained. “Our clients opposed the new mosque construction, like many neighborhoods oppose new construction of any type, not because it was Muslim, but because it would wreak havoc on their neighborhood with un-remediated traffic and noise.”
Yerushalmi continued, “CAIR’s abuse of federal subpoena power is analogous to Sharia-adherent jihadists threatening violence against anyone who, in their perverse view, insults their religion or Mohammed. When you threaten people with enough violence or litigation, the media and the self-anointed talking heads on cable TV and radio begin to lecture us about ‘civility’ and ‘provocation’ not because criticisms of some fundamental aspects of Islam are wrong or in and of themselves uncivil or objectively provocative, but because these pundits are frightened themselves of standing up to these bullies—whether they be violent jihadists or lawfare jihadists like CAIR.”
In 2012, the Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor (MCA) requested that Pittsfield Township, Michigan, rezone a parcel of land to build an Islamic School and community center. The Township denied the request, citing infrastructure and traffic concerns. Nevertheless, CAIR, which bills itself as “America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization” but is widely known in government circles as a Muslim Brotherhood front group, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Township on behalf of the MCA, alleging that township officials denied the MCA’s rezoning application out of discrimination against Muslims.
The MCA’s rezoning request was opposed by a group of Township residents who live in the neighborhood of the proposed development. The residents expressed concerns about the traffic congestion that the new construction would cause in their neighborhood. Pursuant to their rights protected by the First Amendment, these private citizens circulated and submitted to their elected Township officials a petition expressing their opposition to the rezoning and several of them spoke out at public hearings held by the Township to discuss the matter.
As a result of the citizens’ involvement, CAIR served harassing subpoenas on a number of these citizens, demanding that they produce private emails and other documents, and in some cases, appear for a deposition. In one instance, Township resident Zaba Davis and her husband came home to find several papers jammed in the crack of the front door of their home. The papers included subpoenas demanding the production of personal emails and other documents and a subpoena commanding Ms. Davis to appear at a deposition.
In response to CAIR’s abusive discovery requests, AFLC, a national nonprofit Judeo-Christian law firm, which is representing seven of the targeted private citizens, filed a motion to “quash” and for a protective order against CAIR. The court granted the motion, ruling that the subpoenas violated the First Amendment and caused undue burden. According to the court’s ruling:
[CAIR] contends that its sole interest in deposing Davis stems from a genuine belief that she has what it believes to be relevant information, and not from any personal malice against her for her public opposition to the school. This argument fails for a few reasons. First, . . . the Court finds unpersuasive [CAIR’s] relevance argument. Second, for the reasons noted in the preceding paragraphs, to the extent information possessed by Davis is relevant, that relevance is far outweighed by the chilling effect that allowing the subpoenas would have on speech, not only for Davis, but for all others who wish to be involved in public discourse on matters of public concern.
CAIR filed an objection to the magistrate judge ruling, which the district judge rejected on principle but asked the magistrate judge to clarify which of two possible sanction provisions he relied upon to sanction CAIR. After the parties briefed the matter, the magistrate judge ruled quickly and decisively, sanctioning CAIR under both provisions.
CAIR objected to this ruling yet again, and the district judge ruled on Monday upholding the magistrate judge’s sanction against CAIR.
Muise concluded: “Discovery sanctions in federal court are rare. They are typically reserved for the most egregious violations. CAIR’s conduct in this case, not unlike other cases in which we have litigated against CAIR, almost always meets or exceeds this threshold. Yet, only rarely are CAIR and their minions sanctioned. We applaud the court for its courage and fidelity to the rule of law.”