I had hoped to blog on this case in detail myself, but haven’t had a chance, so I thought I’d quote Paul Alan Levy (Public Citizen):
A status conference was held today in connection with Maged Moughni’s motion to vacate the impermissible prior restraint that Judge Kathleen McDonald issued a month ago, forbidding Moughni to discuss in public the class action lawsuit brought against McDonald’s for selling haram Chicken McNuggets that had been advertised as halal, or the proposed class action settlement. Judge Macdonald refused to vacate the injunction even though the parties who obtained the injunction have been unwilling to meet the legal deadlines for defending her illegal injunction.
The motion to vacate the prior restraint was originally to be heard on Friday, March 1. Briefs in opposition to this motion were due three days before the hearing date. Having missed this deadline, the lawyers for McDonald’s, its Dearborn franchisee, and the plaintiff class conferred with the judge on Thursday, February 28 about timing (Moughni was not allowed to have a lawyer at this meeting). The hearing was delayed until March 5 to let McDonald’s try to negotiate its way out of the mess its lawyers (as well as the lawyers for the plaintiff class) had created for themselves. On March 5, the hearing was delayed again until [March 6].
Instead of holding a hearing today, the judge decided to hold a “status conference” in her chambers.
McDonald’s admitted that there was no lawful basis to extend the prior restraint; it also indicated that, as we argued in our motion to vacate, a new notice should be given to class members so that they can decide whether to support or oppose the settlement, or to opt out entirely. I give McDonald’s credit for saying this (and for hiring a fine lawyer here in DC to try in good faith to reach agreement), although I expect we will not agree with its reasons for that posture. Counsel for McDonald’s Dearborn franchisee and for the plaintiff told the judge they could not decide what position to take but promised to make a decision soon. All three told the judge that they were anxious to file written briefs justifying her past actions, but none presented their arguments orally.
Instead of rescinding the injunction because the parties have yet been unwilling to defend their handiwork, Judge Macdonald has given them more time to file briefs, and set a hearing on the motion to vacate the injunction for Monday, March 11 at 2 PM.
All the while, Moughni continues to be muzzled, even while plaintiff’s lawyers have been publicly attacking him (a local paper obligingly published their statement in full) as well as buttonholing individual members of the class as well as opinion leaders in the Dearborn community to justify their conduct and, at least implicitly, to impugn Moughni.
David Post blogged on the case a week ago, and offered some more details, though the case was at an earlier stage then:
On January 18, 2013, the Circuit Court in Wayne County preliminarily approved a settlement in a class action charging that McDonald’s had sold non-”halal” Chicken Mcnuggets that had been advertised as “halal.” A local activist named Majed Moughni was unhappy with the settlement terms (which required McDonalds to pay some money to two local Dearborn charities, along with a hefty fee to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, but nothing for the other class members), so he began a Facebook campaign (“Dearborn Area Community Members”) where he criticized the settlement terms and tried to organize opposition to it.
So far, so good. But the plaintiffs’ lawyers filed an action seeking an injunction against Moughni’s Facebook page, asking that Moughni be required to take everything he had said about the case down, and to post on his Facebook page instead what they said (and what the Court had said).
Unbelievably enough, the court granted the motion and entered a preliminary injunction; finding that Moughni had made “materially false, deceptive and misleading statements concerning the settlement . . . and concerning the rights of the members of the Settlement Class,” and that Moughni “thereby engaged in 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,” the Court
(a) ordered Moughni to remove all statements about the case from his Facebook page and to replace them with the Court’s own expression, and the parties’ own expression, about the proposed settlement, in the form of the preliminary approval order and class notice;
(b) enjoined him from making any other statements about the case in any other forum—whether in person or electronically, or to the press;
(c) ordered him to identify to the Court and the parties those class members who had associated themselves with Moughni’s point of view by using the Facebook “like” and comment functions; and
(d) forbade him from “dissemination, circulation or publication” or any form for opting out or objecting to the settlement.
Looks pretty bad to me, based on my own independent look at the papers (though Paul’s knowledge of the case is much more detailed than mine).