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Posted on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 11:30 a.m.

Ann Arbor to pay $7K to settle lawsuit from Planned Parenthood protester

By Ryan J. Stanton


Paul Dobrowolski of Saline was ticketed by Ann Arbor police for displaying signs in his vehicle outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Ann Arbor.

Courtesy of the American Freedom Law Center

The city of Ann Arbor has agreed to pay $7,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a Planned Parenthood protester who claimed his free speech rights were violated.

The City Council went into closed session with a city attorney Monday night and emerged from behind closed doors to vote 8-0 in favor of a resolution ending the case.

The American Freedom Law Center filed the federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and Police Chief John Seto in April for alleged violations of Paul Dobrowolski's First Amendment rights.


Dobrowolski sued the city for a violation of his free speech rights and the city is now settling the case for $7,000.

Courtesy of the American Freedom Law Center

Dobrowolski, a pro-life advocate from Saline, displayed anti-abortion signs in his vehicle parked on a public street outside Planned Parenthood in Ann Arbor for more than a year.

The city ticketed Dobrowolski on May 29 and June 4 last year for displaying the signs, and on two occasions he paid $25 fines to the city.

Language on Dobrowolski’s signs included "Ask to see the Ultrasound," "Abortion Hurts Women" and "Free Ultrasound, Family Life Services, 2950 Packard, YPSI, 734-434-3088."

Ann Arbor's city code states that a person is not allowed to park a vehicle on a city roadway for the principal purpose of displaying advertising.

Specifically, Dobrowolski's "Free Ultrasound" sign was considered to be advertising by the Ann Arbor Police Department and that was the reason he was ticketed.

The lawsuit, which challenged the city code, claimed Dobrowolski's signs are all political speech and protected by the First Amendment.

Mayor John Hieftje said city officials have conceded the city code is "a little bit outdated." He said there have been court rulings in other places that showed city officials the type of speech Dobrowolski was engaged in probably is protected and the city wasn't going to win in court.

Hieftje said it's his understanding Dobrowolski has engaged in similar activity in another city, and Ann Arbor officials "didn't want to make it a lucrative career for his attorney to go around suing cities."

"It's something that's going to cost us $7,000," he said. "It's over with."

As part of his protest outside Planned Parenthood in Ann Arbor, Dobrowolski also has distributed pro-life literature and held signs.

He was notified on May 22, 25 and 31 last year he had 48 hours to move his vehicle or it would be considered abandoned and impounded under the city's abandoned vehicle ordinance.

A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood told its health centers regularly have protesters and the organization doesn't try to interfere with anyone's right to free speech.

Hieftje said the complaints to the city about Dobrowolski's signs didn't come from Planned Parenthood, but rather nearby neighbors and business people.

Council Members Stephen Kunselman and Christopher Taylor, both 3rd Ward Democrats, were absent Monday night. Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward, was present for most of the meeting but left before the council voted on settling the lawsuit.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

Does Mr. Dobrowolski have a job, or is he a professional protester who makes his living via lawsuits? I don't think most working people can just park their car outside an abortion clinic and leave it there for a week.


Mon, Aug 26, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

professional agitator...much like the entire Tea Party


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

What about the baby? we must speak for those who scream silently.

The Eyes of Justice Team

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 4:50 a.m.

Postema = Easy Money

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

Something to keep in mind when Postema runs for higher political office.

Basic Bob

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 10:47 a.m.

It's truly amazing how often our local governments end up in federal court for suppressing the rights of individuals. How much is Pittsfield paying in legal services to defend the supervisor and trustees?

5c0++ H4d13y

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:21 a.m.

Freedom isn't free people.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:05 a.m.

More and more efficient municipal services less promoting one ideology over another

Colorado Sun

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:20 a.m.

This settlement payment along with the ACLU payment it received in the bus ad case sends a message to all constitutional litigation attorneys that the City of Ann Arbor just rolls over and quits - it is an easy mark for payouts from City Council.

Angry Moderate

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:34 a.m.

What would you like them to do? Spends hundreds of thousands of dollars defending lawsuits that they're sure to lose?


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:54 p.m.

ok I changed my mind on the Israel protester thing. if the city of A2 can give someone a ticket for displaying a sign in his own car, then they should be able to throw Herskie in jail.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.

I'm all for the right for women to have abortions, I'm also all for free speech. Not sure $7,000 is enough to deter this from happening again.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

This is a great. It might mean if you have a political sign in your car window, then the 72 hour tow restrictions no longer apply.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

That's quite the leap.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

"A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood told its health centers regularly have protesters and the organization doesn't try to interfere with anyone's right to free speech" -from story Yes but they have shells/fronts and a lot of... help. Let's hope is on Freedom's side. "Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in America. 78% of their clinics are in minority communities. Blacks make up 12% of the population, but 35% of the abortions in America. Are we being targeted? Isn't that genocide? We are the only minority in America that is on the decline in population. If the current trend continues, by 2038 the black vote will be insignificant. Did you know that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was a devout racist who created the Negro Project designed to sterilize unknowing black women and others she deemed as undesirables of society? The founder of Planned Parenthood said, "Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated." Is her vision being fulfilled today?" You can also ask Pastor Levon Yuille of The Bible Church Ypsilanti, Michigan and host of Just Joshua heard on WAAM 1600am Sunday mornings at 8AM about how diabolical PP is.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

PP hands out "The Maggie Award" ... every year I believe. Maggie refers to Sanger. There is plenty of documentation at the site on PP, Sanger and others. As for MLK.... It'd be great to know what he'd say but he was assassanated. They still teach in school that James Earl Ray was the shooter but not one but TWO rials proved otherwise and James Earl Ray's Attorney William Pepper is also MLK's families attorney in these matters. The jury also found the US Gov guilty of being involved in the murder and subsequent cover-up... Q.) Did you know that? What PP giving MLK an award has to do with anything is moot and IMO irrealevant. Prescott Bush, The grandfather of G.W. and father of G.H.W. Bush was the treasurer for the Comm.branch of PP (It was called by a diff name then> He (Precott Bush) also sat on the board of the NAACP... Diabolical and evil IMO.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

I wonder if that is why PP has repeatedly distanced itself from Sangers views on race? Can you cite ANY racial policies of current PP offices or officers? This is like saying that because George Washington and Jefferson had slaves, Obama is a white racist. Freedom means being able to make ones own reproductive decisions without the The Church or government looking over ones shoulder (or through an ultrasound).


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:01 a.m.

angry moderate, I couldn't care less of your opinion of Sanger...I wonder what mlk would say.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:20 p.m.

You say "accusation" like it's in dispute. There is no doubt about Margaret Sanger's racist views.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:17 p.m.

Took a while but someone finally played the race card. I wonder what mlk would say of your accusation of Margaret Sanger? After all, he was a recipient of the Planned Parenthood Margaret Sanger Award in 1966.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 7:27 p.m.

Correct me if I'm wrong but there are two locations in Ann Arbor right? Stadium and Huron Pkwy? Is this the guy that stands out on Huron Pkwy with the signs with disturbing images? I am not in favor of abortions myself but what this man does is disgusting and upsetting to many people, including the young children in my car that don't need to see that. He is not accomplishing much besides upsetting people. I am not against Planned Parenthood. I've been there myself because they provide many health services to lower income families. I would not consider an abortion myself but I don't avoid Planned Parenthood or protest them because others choose to have abortions. It's similar to my decision to still shop at and not boycott stores that sell cigarettes even though I find them disgusting and offensive.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

@SillySally You're assumption is "silly". When other people choose abortion they are not harming me or my children. I do not associate with people who are smoking. My children are rarely ever exposed to 2nd hand smoke because I do not allow people who are smoking to be around them. Of course I would speak up to protect myself and my children. I really have no idea how you made that assumption from what I said. When the decisions of others affect me then, yes, I take a stand, but when they are only affecting the person who makes them and those who choose to associate with them, then, while it is upsetting to me, I do not have the right to tell them they were wrong. Of course if they asked me, I wouldn't hold back, but most don't ask.

Silly Sally

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

"I have no right to determine what choices others make, no matter how repulsive they are to me." REALLY? What if someone were harming one of your children? Someone else's child? A child molester? Per your statement, you would just stand by, saying and doing nothing. I'm glad that most do not have your attitude. They would speak up.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:56 a.m.

I understand where you're coming from but maybe you don't understand where I am coming from so let me tell you. Smoking cigarettes causes harm and death, abortions cause harm and death...I hate them both because they are both repulsive and disgusting to me. But they are still available to others and I have no right to determine what choices others make, no matter how repulsive they are to me. At the same time, as a lower income working family, we ride the fine line of not qualifying for much assistance but struggling to pay for our necessities. We took advantage of the health services provided and Planned Parenthood so as to be responsible enough not to have unwanted pregnancies so that abortion would never even need to be an issue. I am happy there are organizations out there like Planned Parenthood that help people to make those responsible decisions. But I do not agree with their support of abortions, but I can't control the choices that a business makes, whether its the services they provide or the products they sell.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

I could never compare cigarettes to abortion. Interesting that you can.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 7:10 p.m.

Marcia Higgins left early? Say it isn't so! Since she lost her election so overwhelmingly it's clear that she has decided not to change her attendance practices.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 11:43 a.m.

But you're ok with Kunselman and Taylor not even showing up.

you can't handle the truth

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 7 p.m.

Free speech in the People's Republic of Ann Arbor ends when the message does not agree with the extreme liberals who run the place and the freaks and wierdos who vote for them.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

You hit the dumacrats right where their votes come from,you can't fix stupid!


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

Except for the constant protesters at this location that do not get ticketed, or the protesters at the synagogue, or the people protesting Obamacare, or the KKK holding a rally on City Hall steps. Other than those and multiple other examples or people protesting a myriad of things in and around ann arbor...OK, you are just incorrect. But, if it makes you feel go ahead and avoid reality.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:43 p.m.

Right on.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:12 p.m.

That is how it is everywhere. Try to protest say, drinking alcohol at Tiger stadium cause U feel its wrong to drink beer in front of young children and see how well the fans and local police treat U.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

To Angry Moderate: the cul de sac is a public street and they can be in it as long as they keep moving(walking). They can come up to the boundary at the enterance to the parking lot and up to the curb on the island in front of the building. The closest he can get is about 10 feet depending on which path they take to the front door. But this is a guy with a strong voice that doesn`t need a bull horn to annoy people. Didn`t I mention he has no respect for anyone`s privacy.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 11:41 a.m.

So Paul, you see no difference between a woman exercising her constitutional right to make decisions about a pregnancy, usually a very difficult decision, and your going to see strippers. Yeah, that's the same.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:15 p.m.

Oh well, I've been shout at right outside of a "gentlemen club" while I was trying to walk inside. Didn't like it but hey, it was a public sidewalk. Words still don't hurt me. Verbal assault is a joke, IMO.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:43 p.m.

Dear Albert Howard; you "stood with Mr Dubrowolski" exactly twice.... that doesn`t count as "many". And the second time you were there you saw first hand how verbally abusive he can be. To your credit you did not participate in that particular verbal assault. You never came back after that and I thought that had driven you away.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:42 p.m.

Ann Arbor is the promised land of diversity and freedom..except when you disagree with liberal politics, of course. I am pro-choice but I am pro-constitution and pro-freedom too.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:18 p.m.

X2 But everywhere its what most of the people want. I recall my local fire dept using its trucks to hang re elect GWB back in 2004. My taxes helped pay for that fire truck, yet they were using it to display their point of views. Well they got what they wanted, hope they are really doing good today.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:40 p.m.

Report the facts, but stop posting the pictures of the car and signs. You're advertising just as much as he is! Stop the free publicity!


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

I disagree. Seeing the pictures of the car point out how stupid the city was to write him a ticket.

Widow Wadman

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:34 p.m.

If Mr. Dobrowolski threatens people with harm or attacks someone, then I hope that he is rapidly prosecuted. If he merely reminds people that God is watching, then he should be left alone by the police. That would be protected speech. People like him are a pain, but I really don't want the City getting involved because the lawsuits will cost me. The current lawsuit has already cost taxpayers $7000.

Albert Howard

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

I would stand with Paul Dobrowolski on many occasions at this location.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

Not to put a damper on your pro-life rhetoric, but very few people are for "the killing of babies." You can be pro-choice and anti-abortion at the same time...I have yet to hear from a pro-choicer who is super enthusiastic about abortions. Which is why we like to point out that keeping abortions (and sex education and health care) legal, safe, and accessible actually cuts down on the amount women need them.

Silly Sally

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

Its not. Many white men with advanced degrees, along with women with equal educations dislike the killing of babies. Women of color dislike it as this practice has killed many African American babies.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 11:13 a.m.

Why is it always the under educated white men of this society leading the anti-choice/anti-abortion movement?


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 3:11 a.m.

albert, i fully support your efforts to help secure for others the same fundamental right you, and i and emily enjoy-- the right to life.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:42 p.m.

God bless you.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

I fully support your right to bear children, Albert. Best of luck in any of your future pregnancies.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:41 p.m.

Just shows why you won't ever win an office.

tom swift jr.

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

It doesn't matter which side of the abortion issue you stand, ticketing this guy was foolish. The $7,000 ought to be spread up the chain of command that made the decision (including the city council/mayor if they had wind of it when it happened) and taken out of their pay. I'm no constitutional attorney but this was a no-brainer.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:28 p.m.

Us tax payers always have to pay. Rarely do the police have to take the blame for their mistakes. What about the police that shoot an unarmed person, often times they are back on the beat in a few weeks.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 9:53 p.m.

A non-profit business is still a business, so it seems to be a fine line. Even if it were non-profit, it doesn't necessarily mean free. What if it were a small fee at a non-profit? For example, the same sign but it began 'For only $5, you can...'. What if he were 'advertising' a free service at a for-profit business? Something like getting a free evaluation at so-and-so's doctor's office? Because it is apparently a free service at a non-profit, the line seems more definite. I am no constitutional attorney either, but I don't think this was a no-brainer. And even if I did, it is up to the courts to determine, not the cop on the beat or the guy reading about it after the fact.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 9:01 p.m.

johnny, there is a difference between a non-profit and a business.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 8:48 p.m.

Do you know how to read? The CITY did not ticket him, the POLICE did. The mayor does not control what the police do. They make ordinances and the police ENFORCE them. The guy IS walking a fine line with advertising a place of business on his car. and the next guy will be advertising BONGS AND THONGZ as a political statement regarding antiquated sex and drug policy in the country.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.

The city of open-minded, liberal tolerance...where you will get a parking ticket, get banned from the Diag for life, get uninvited from a speaking engagement, and be banned from advertising on public buses, if you don't agree with the powers that be. And just across US-23, EMU had to settle a lawsuit for discriminating against pro-life students. What is up with the disrespect for the Constitution in this area?


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

It's hard to believe that some people think we are smart.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

I just got confirmation from City Attorney Stephen Postema that the $7,000 strictly covers attorneys fees in the case and nothing more. I also asked if there are any city code implications from this settlement and he said, "We're looking at the ordinance."


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:35 p.m.

He should have gotten more then $7,000 if it just covers his expenses. Yet, if he took the case to court, the jury which is made up of mostly liberals would decided how much-if any thing-to give him. See what you are up against if your views are not popular. Hard to even sue cause the jury would not agree with your views. Again, I'm all for abortions, yet free speech to me means free speech to all. Get rid of that and we become like most of the other countries. They got hate speech laws in many other countries, ugh.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

Lawsuit settlement wind against folly city a2 ordinance? $7,000 Resulting publicity from settling case? Priceless Thanks, mayor. Fix the ordinance. Get busy working on typical mayoral issues and activities, leaving the folly to Ziegfeld.