AATA agrees to settle lawsuit over refusal to allow anti-Israel advertisements on buses
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
According to a court order dated July 17, the case will be dismissed with prejudice and without costs and fees. That means the case is officially closed now.
The AATA claimed the ad violated its advertising policy, while Coleman claimed the policy was unconstitutional.
A federal judge ruled in favor of the ACLU and Coleman in September 2012, agreeing the advertising policy was vague and unconstitutional.
The AATA's board held a special meeting in November 2012 to revise the policy, removing a sentence that stated all advertising on buses must be in "good taste," among other changes. But even with those changes, AATA officials still said Coleman's ad wouldn't be allowed on buses.
The legal battle continued and a federal judge ruled in June that the AATA had the grounds to not run the anti-Israel ad proposed by Coleman.
U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith found the basis for Coleman's suit was moot and AATA's revised policy presented no ongoing constitutional violation.
ACLU attorney Dan Korobkin said both sides decided a settlement was appropriate and they reached an agreement that worked for everyone.
Kathleen Klaus, a Southfield-based attorney who represented the AATA, said the terms of the settlement are confidential, so she couldn't discuss them, but she can say they're happy the case is over and that the AATA did not have to run Coleman's ad.
Korobkin said Coleman did not ask for any money from the AATA as part of the settlement, but the ACLU accepted payment from the AATA for some of its expenses and attorney fees. Korobkin said he couldn't say anything more than that under the terms of the agreement.
Korobkin said the ACLU brought the case to support the principles of free speech. From the ACLU's standpoint, he said, the legal case never had anything to do with Israel.
"We don't take a position on the merits of the speech when we're involved in a First Amendment case," he said. "The issue is not whether you agree with the speech or don't agree with the speech — the issue is whether the government's role is to make the decision to censor the speech."
He said the ACLU takes issue when government favors some kinds of political speech over others, and that's what was happening before the lawsuit was filed.
"The most significant aspect of this case was when the court ruled the AATA policy on advertising was unconstitutional," Korobkin said. "The AATA made some significant changes to that policy, and at this point, both sides have decided a settlement was the most appropriate way to go forward."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.