On July 2, 2014, a Michigan federal judge granted a motion filed by the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) requesting that the court “quash” harassing and burdensome subpoenas issued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (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. And in a rare move, the judge also awarded AFLC its attorneys’ fees and costs for having to bring the motion. Read the judge’s ruling here.
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.
According to David Yerushalmi, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of AFLC, CAIR files these types of lawsuits against municipalities all across the country
“in order to further the Muslim Brotherhood’s stated goal of engaging in ‘civilization jihad,’ which the Brotherhood expressly claims will ‘destroy Western civilization from within.’”
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 would be caused by the construction of a school and community center 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, 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 today, 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.
Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented:
“Private citizens have a fundamental First Amendment right to publicly express to their elected officials their personal views. CAIR’s ruthless attacks demonstrate that its objectives are dangerously at odds with the Constitution. Consequently, this ruling was important not only for our clients, but for all private citizens who want to speak out against CAIR.”
“This ruling represents a significant victory against the ‘civilizational jihad’ that is being waged within our borders by sharia-adherent Islamists. This case is another example of CAIR trying to abuse the legal system to persecute its enemies. And once again, the American Freedom Law Center has stood in the way. Moreover, by awarding us attorneys’ fees and costs, this ruling is not only a victory, but it is a victory with a stick.”