Thursday, September 27, 2012

Appeals court to hear SeaMAC lawsuit over King County’s refusal to run Metro bus ads

So let's see if we have this straight...notorious Islamophobe Pamela Geller can go to court to force the New York subway system to run her vile and racist ads, yet when one of member groups--Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign--wants to run an ad like this on Seattle's buses, their First Amendment claims are dismissed in court.

Hopefully the ACLU will prevail in this appeal so that everyone can exercise their right to freedom of expression and not only Islamophobes.


On October 3, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC) lawsuit over King County’s cancellation of a contract with SeaMAC to run ads on Metro buses. The hearing will take place at Gonzaga University School of Law, Barbieri Courtroom, 721 North Cincinnati Street, in Spokane beginning at 1:00 pm.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington is representing SeaMAC in the suit.
The bus ads, reading “Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work,” were examined, approved, and accepted by King County and Metro officials.  SeaMAC signed a contract and paid the full cost in advance, and the ads were printed and scheduled to run for four weeks starting on December 27, 2010.  The date was chosen because it was the second anniversary of Israel’s three-week military offensive against the captive population of Gaza in 2008-09, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,400 Palestinians -- most of them non-combatants and more than 300 of them children. 
The language of the ad was chosen to reflect the fact that investigations by Amnesty International, the United Nations and others found evidence of war crimes committed by Israel during the assault on Gaza.  Other war crimes have been documented during Israel’s long occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
At the last minute, on December 23, 2010, King County reversed course, cancelled the contract, and refused to run the ads.  Filed in U.S. District Court in January 2011, the lawsuit (SeaMAC v. King County) asserts that King County’s action violated SeaMAC’s First Amendment right of free expression and seeks to have the court order the ads to run on Metro buses, as originally approved. A trial in the case had been scheduled to begin on October 31, 2011, but a District Court judge granted King County’s motion for summary judgment and on October 10, 2011 dismissed the case.
The plaintiffs will ask the Court to reverse this decision. If the Court of Appeals overturns the lower court’s decision, the Court will either direct a verdict for plaintiff (or defendants) or the lawsuit will go back to the trial court to be heard before a jury. After the hearing, there is no deadline for a Court of Appeals ruling, and it typically takes 90 days or longer to reach a decision.
Photo of original SeaMAC bus ad available on request.

Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign is an all-volunteer organization incorporated in Washington State.  

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