February 27, 2013

Stupid Michigan judge tricks

Daniel Fisher, Forbes - Any reporter who has covered the courts knows that sometimes judges get a little confused. Accustomed to exercising total control over what goes on within the courtroom, they start to think their control extends to what goes on outside.

That’s one potential explanation for why Wayne County, Mich. Judge Kathleen MacDonald slapped a Dearborn man with an injunction ordering him to take down his Facebook comments critical of a class-action settlement of a case against McDonald’s for selling non-halal meat.

The settlement was exactly the type of arrangement that gives class actions a bad name: In exchange for dropping the suit, the lawyers at Jaafar & Mahdi Law Group would get $230,000 in fees and a local health clinic and museum completely unrelated to the litigation would get $425,000. Jaafar & Mahdi’s clients would get exactly zero out of the deal, except for the named plaintiff, Dearborn Heights resident Ahmed Ahmed, who’d get $20,000 for his troubles.

Moughni, a lawyer, maintains a Facebook page for members of the large Muslim community in Dearborn. On it, he criticized the settlement as a “backroom deal” in which the lawyer “wants to pocket $230,000.” He also urged followers to “like” his comments if they also objected to the deal and thought the money should go to Muslim customers who ate non-halal meals.

Jaafar & Mahdi didn’t like that one bit. Which is understandable. What is inexplicable is MacDonald agreed. She said Moughni’s Facebook comments represented “deliberate and abusive conduct which has created a likelihood of confusion of class members, adversely has effected the administration of justice and has undermined this Court’s responsibility and authority to protect Class members from such abuses.” She ordered him to take down all comments about the case and replace them with her notice of preliminary approval of the settlement and the class notice, in English and Arabic, as well as her injunction.

She also ordered Moughni to turn over the names, addresses and comments of the several hundred people who clicked “like” on his Facebook page and threatened to turn him into the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission.

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