Dave Agema, one of Michigan’s representatives on the Republican National Committee, and Kamal Saleem, one of the many fake “ex-terrorists” making a living scaring the hell out of the Christian right, have had a lawsuit they filed against a Michigan city, People for the American Way and CAIR dismissed by a Bush-appointed federal judge. They were represented by the Thomas More Law Center.
In 2012, Agema and Saleem were scheduled to speak at Allegan High School, just south of Grand Rapids, but the local police shut down the event our of concern for potential violence because Saleem claims to have a $25 million price on his head. They sued not only the school and the city but also People for the American Way and CAIR, who had sent a letter to the school informing them that Saleem appears to be a con man selling a false story about being an “ex-terrorist” and that he routinely says absolutely ludicrous things (like claiming that he is descended from the “grand wazir of Islam,” which does not exist and never has).
There were many different claims in the suit against each of the defendants. Against the city and the school they claimed violations of the Free Speech Clause, but against PFAW and CAIR they alleged “Tortious Interference of Contract” for writing the letter. All of the claims in the case were dismissed, but the ones against PFAW and CAIR are particularly interesting. Judge Janet Neff, a Bush appointee, concluded that the defendants were exercising their own First Amendment right to petition the government for action:
Defendants CAIR-MI, Walid, PFAW and Keegan argue that application of the Noerr-Pennington doctrine shields them from liability because they legally and reasonably petitioned the appropriate government official responsible for allowing Saleem to speak at Allegan High School in an effort to cancel his speech.
Defendants CAIR-MI, Walid, PFAW and Keegan’s argument has merit.
The right to petition, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, protects “the ability of the people to make their wishes known to their representatives.” The knowing infliction of injury from genuine petitioning does not render the campaign itself illegal because to hold otherwise would be “tantamount to outlawing all such campaigns.”…
Here, accepting as true the factual allegations contained in Count IV of Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs have stated an example of a claim for which the Noerr-Pennington doctrine grants immunity: private actors petitioning for—and, in fact, receiving—government action. The Court agrees that the petition from Defendants CAIR-MI, Walid, PFAW and Keegan to the school superintendent constitutes an attempt to influence governmental action, a petition that is protected by the First Amendment.
You can read the full ruling here.
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