City pays pro-life activist $7,000 for violating his First Amendment rights

Ann Arbor, Michigan, had maintained that a sign outside Planned Parenthood for a local crisis pregnancy center constituted illegal “advertising.”
Tue Aug 20, 2013 - 3:35 pm EST

ANN ARBOR, MI, August 20, 2013 ( – The city of Ann Arbor has agreed to pay a pro-life protester $7,000 after it ticketed him for displaying pro-life signs outside an abortion facility.

As part of his protest outside the Planned Parenthood facility – which is located near the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University – Paul Dobrowolski posted signs inside his vehicle that said “Abortion Hurts Women.”

Another directed women coming to the facility to seek a free ultrasound at Family Life Services Clinic and Pregnancy Center in nearby Ypsilanti. Ann Arbor police told him that sign violated a city ordinance prohibiting advertising.


Twice last year, on May 29 and again on June 5, they issued a total of $50 in tickets to Dobrowolski.

He paid – and then promptly contacted the American Freedom Law Center to file suit.

“Certainly, this wasn't a commercial transaction,” said Robert J. Muise, Dobrowolski's attorney, told “That was pure political speech.”

“This ordinance was just facially unconstitutional,” Muise said.

The city may have applied the injunction selectively, as Muise said it could be interpreted to ban “every bumper sticker on the back of a car.”

“There are three areas of speech that there are different rules for: pro-life speech, speech critical of Islam, and speech critical of the gay rights agenda,” Muise told “There [seem to be] separate rules under the First Amendment, where there's not full protection.”

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Last night, city council voted unanimously, 8-0, to settle the case. Ann Arbor will reimburse Dobrowolski, who lives in neighboring Saline, for the tickets and pay $7,000 in attorney's fees.

The city has also agreed to a permanent injunction barring police from enforcing this ordinance against Dobrowolski in the future.

Mayor John Hieftje told he "didn't want to make it a lucrative career for his attorney to go around suing cities."

Muise, who spent 12 years as senior counsel at the Thomas More Law Center, also based in Ann Arbor, already has a full docket. He just filed a lawsuit against the HHS mandate on behalf of Priests for Life and is representing the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) against the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY-Buffalo).

But the former Marine savored Monday night's ruling.

“This is a clear victory for First Amendment rights, and particularly the First Amendment rights of pro-life demonstrators, whose rights are constantly breached,” Muise said.

  american freedom law center aflc, free speech, michigan

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