Sunday, September 01, 2013

Coleman v. AATA Settled

I want to give readers a belated update on Coleman v. AATA. It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that the lawsuit resulted in a pyrrhic victory for the plaintiff, Blaine Coleman.

In a nutshell, Judge Goldsmith ruled that the AATA had violated Coleman's First Amendment rights but gave them the opportunity to reconsider Coleman's proposed advertisement under a revised policy which he declared constitutional with the result that the ad was once again rejected. Last July, the Coleman and his attorneys at the ACLU threw in the towel and settled the lawsuit in return for partial payment by AATA of its fees and expenses. reporter Ryan Stanton writes: "[ACLU attorney Dan] 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." This attitude doomed the lawsuit before the first hearing; Israel was always a central issue.

Because of this attitude, the conflicts of interest by the judge and other public officials in the case never got the scrutiny they deserved. As I wrote in a comment on the Ann Arbor Chronicle:
One thing that puzzles me, though, is why the Ann Arbor Chronicle hasn't been as thorough in exploring the potential for judicial bias in this case. Suppose this were a case about a provocative abortion rights advertisement (imagine, for example, a bloody coat hangar and some language about driving women back into the hands of unsafe back-alley abortionists) and it turned out that, according to public records, the assigned federal judge was a leading member of an organization staunchly and actively opposed to abortion, he had proudly sent his minor daughter to intern with Operation Rescue, and was a significant investor/donor to militant anti-abortion groups.
In such a case, can anyone doubt that the judge's political activities and inclinations would be a matter for journalistic scrutiny? I understand that the Plaintiff in this AATA case has chosen not to raise the question of judicial bias but does that completely negate the matter? I don't think so. This case is about everyone's 1st Amendment rights and the independence and fairness of federal judges is a matter that should concern us all. Then, too, there are conflict of interest/bias issues concerning the AATA Board and its corporate counsel that have also not been explored by the Ann Arbor Chronicle and other mainstream media. Why not put some hard, probing questions to the people on the public payroll in this matter?
That never happened.

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