Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open Public Debate Feared Lost If Case Goes To Trial
For Immediate Release
Washington, D.C. – The Court of Appeals for the State of Michigan today accepted an appeal by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy to consider dismissing a lawsuit filed by the Michigan Education Association against the think tank. The Court – without a request by either party – also ordered the trial court proceedings stayed pending the outcome of the appeal. The MEA filed its lawsuit after the Mackinac Center accurately quoted the MEA’s president when he called a press conference during which he stated, ". . .frankly, I admire what [the Mackinac Center has] done."
"Michigan courts have repeatedly emphasized that unmeritorious First Amendment cases should be dispensed with as soon as possible," said Clark Neily, a senior attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, which represents the Mackinac Center for free in the case. "We’re hopeful the appeals court will vindicate that principle by dismissing the MEA’s baseless attack on the Mackinac Center’s right of free expression."
The central question presented in the appeal is whether participants in public policy debates may use the threat of litigation to chill their opponents’ speech and force them to engage in self-censorship. The Mackinac Center and the Institute for Justice answer that question with a resounding "no."
There are no disputed facts in the case, thus negating any need for a trial. In December, the lower court ordered the case to trial, thereby allowing the MEA’s intimidation tactic of trying to silence opponents with meritless lawsuits to continue.
Neily argued in a brief filed in January, "Failure to dismiss [the MEA’s] claims at this stage would also jeopardize the ability of Michigan citizens to comment upon the activities of large, well-funded organizations like the Michigan Education Association without undue fear of reprisal."
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Contact: IJ – John Kramer or Lisa Andaloro at (202) 955-1300
Mackinac Center – Joe Lehman at (989) 631-0900
[NOTE: To arrange interviews on this subject, journalists may call John Kramer, the Institute for Justice’s vice president for communications, at (202) 955-1300.]