Last month, we filed a “writ of mandamus” in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. This is an extraordinary measure. Generally, a petition for a mandamus order is made to compel a judicial officer to perform a duty owed to the petitioner. It is issued from a superior court to an inferior court.
In this case, we are asking the Sixth Circuit to order the federal district court judge presiding in our case in Detroit to rule on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, which have been pending for more than 5 years.
In this lawsuit, the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART)—a government agency—refused to run our clients’ “Leaving Islam” ad even though the transit authority runs many controversial ads, including an ad from an atheist organization stating, “Don’t believe in God. You are not alone.”
The court’s delay in ruling on the motions is depriving our clients their First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
Last Friday, the Sixth Circuit issued an order “inviting” the district court to respond to our petition within 28 days. This was a polite way of telling the lower court, “you better rule on these motions or we are going to formally order you to do your job!”
Last month, we filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking the high court’s review in a case challenging the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) refusal to display two “Support Free Speech” ads on their advertising space.
In this case, WMATA originally rejected the ads because the ad copy “advocates free speech and does not try to sell you a commercial product” in violation of WMATA’s advertising guideline prohibiting “[a]dvertisements intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions.”
WMATA now claims that the ads also violate its guideline prohibiting “[a]dvertisements that support or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief.”
AFLC contends that both guidelines are unlawful viewpoint-based restrictions.
WMATA is represented by Obama’s former Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli. In response to our petition, Verrilli filed a “waiver,” which is a way of saying, “don’t bother with this petition, there is nothing to see here . . .”
As the former Solicitor General of the United States, all of the Supreme Court justices know Verrilli. Indeed, the Solicitor General has an office in the Supreme Court building, and he is often referred to as the “tenth justice” because of his close relationship with the justices on the Court.
Well, yesterday, the Supreme Court directed Verrilli to file a response to our petition . . .
The battle rages on . . .