McDonalds restaurant (Photo: Getty Images)
By Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT - Two civil rights groups requested this week that a Wayne County judge rescind an order that clamped down on the Facebook page of an attorney who criticized McDonald's.
In a brief filed Thursday, attorneys with the Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald went too far when she ruled on Feb. 7 that Dearborn, Mich., attorney Majed Moughni must remove all comments about a settlement McDonald's recently reached over complaints that it sold non-halal chicken advertised as halal at a Dearborn location.
Moughni had filed a complaint asking that the settlement be set aside, or that people who might have been injured be given more time to challenge it. He called the settlement a backroom deal meant to enrich two organizations and attorneys at the expense of people who mistakenly ate non-halal meat.
In her Feb. 7 order, Macdonald also said that Moughni must place a copy of the settlement prominently on his Facebook page, not allowing him to post new comments and discussions.
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Her order has effectively halted any new activity on Dearborn Area Community Members' Facebook page, which draws more than 20,000 views per week and acts as a news hub.
"The court has imposed an overbroad gag order ... that chills political speech," said the brief filed by the ACLU. "It compels Mr. Moughni to use his Facebook page as a billboard for the court's preliminary settlement and gag order."
In addition to the ACLU brief, the Public Citizen Litigation Group, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., that is part of a larger group founded by Ralph Nader, filed a brief on Friday against Macdonald's order.
"The judge's actions represent a jaw-dropping attack on the First Amendment," said Paul Levy, an attorney for Public Citizen.
Macdonald would not comment Friday on the legal challenges because it's an ongoing case, an assistant said.
McDonald's and its attorney did not comment either.
Mike Jaafar, a Dearborn attorney who settled with McDonald's, dismissed concerns about free speech in this case: "There is no First Amendment right to deceive the public about an ongoing class action."
Detroit Free Press