Judge orders man to take down Facebook comments critical of McDonald’s class action settlement

by Walter Olson on February 27, 2013

“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.” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes; Paul Alan Levy, Public Citizen; Ted Frank, PoL] More: Blue Dog Thoughts.

{ 1 trackback }

Free speech roundup - Overlawyered
03.11.13 at 12:30 am

{ 11 comments }

1 Mark Hartzler 02.27.13 at 1:50 am

Judge McDonald’s order appears to be an alarming violation of Majed Moughni’s First Amendment rights. Even if later reversed, it will have silenced opposition to a settlement that puts hundreds of thousands of dollars into the pockets of the class action attorneys and third-party charities, yet does nothing to prevent future violations and provides no relief to unnamed class members. It’s the kind of class action settlement that any informed class member should opt out of and I understand why the class action attorneys are eager to silence discussion of the outrageous nature of this settlement.

2 wfjag 02.27.13 at 6:31 am

The McNuggets aren’t halal! I didn’t know they were supposed to be organic.

3 No Name Guy 02.27.13 at 3:15 pm

Judge Kathleen MacDonald, please report to remedial 1st Amendment Constitutional Law class. We’re up to 2 students here in the last couple of weeks.

4 Hugo S. Cunningham 02.27.13 at 4:15 pm

I was interested to read that Public Citizen are the white knights in this case. They have been associated with Ralph Nader, not known as an advocate of tort reform, but perhaps they figure that abusive class action settlements give class action suits in general a bad name.

5 Mark Hartzler 02.27.13 at 5:24 pm

“They have been associated with Ralph Nader, not known as an advocate of tort reform, but perhaps they figure that abusive class action settlements give class action suits in general a bad name.”

True, but Public Citizen isn’t taking a position on the appropriateness of the settlement or whether this is an appropriate class action. It’s the free speech angle, in my opinion, that pulled Paul Levy into the case. The Judge sees a lawyer trying to muscle into a class action settlement and Paul Levy sees an activist protesting an unfair settlement. I’m firmly in activist camp and hope the injunction is vacated and the class opt-out period is extended.

6 David Smith 02.27.13 at 8:37 pm

Under the principal of “truth as an absolute defense” (yeah, I know. ONLY the US includes that in its applied law) if he can prove what he said is the truth or opinion (opinion is by definition “the truth” – how can you lie about the truthfulness of your truthfulness about you thoughts) if this shows up in actual court (the lawyers will NOT permit it) the battle could get interesting – and deadly ugly.

7 Bill Poser 02.27.13 at 11:52 pm

Until the injunction is overturned, others should repost the same criticism of the settlement. The judge is a county judge and so has no jurisdiction outside Michigan.

8 Paul Alan Levy 02.27.13 at 11:53 pm

Hugo Cunningham has pegged our views accurately. Although we have taken no position on the propriety of this class action settlement, my colleagues at Public Citizen have been deeply involved in the developing law of challenges to unfair and collusive class action settlements, going back to the Georgine case and even before. I myself did one of Public Citizen’s first cases in this area, a challenge to the settlement of a class action in federal court in St. Louis over Chrysler’s odometer tampering back in the 1980′s. The practice continues today — the Ninth Circuit just denied en banc reconsideration of our challenge to the the cy pres settlement in a class action against Facebook for its Beacon program.

We see the class action as an absolutely essential remedial tool, for example in cases where individual claims are too small to justify paying a lawyer to litigate them. At the same time there is a tendency for defendants to collude with plaintiffs’ lawyers in some cases to settle for as little as possible for the class — a race to the bottom, as it were. By keeping the class action settlement process honest, we preserve this essential tool.

9 ParatrooperJJ 02.28.13 at 1:45 pm

An arrest warrant for a contempt charge would be valid nationwide, not just in MI…..

10 MattS 02.28.13 at 3:19 pm

ParatrooperJJ,

True, assuming a valid contempt charge. My understanding is that a court can not issue a contempt charge against someone not already subject to its jurisdiction. So the MI court would not be able to issue a contempt charge or an arrest warrant for it against someone outside of MI that re-posts the criticism of the class action settlement.

11 steve mansfield 03.11.13 at 6:08 pm

As a former judge I am shocked and appalled by the clearly unconstitutional act by this judge. Perhaps another example of PC (which is the McCarthyism of the Left) gone wild as this judge is obviously trying to stifle a conservative critique of the abuse of the class action system perpetrated by the Trial Bar, one of the biggest funders of liberal causes.

Comments on this entry are closed.