Court Orders AATA to Reconsider Ad

In an order filed Dec. 17, 2012, judge Mark Goldsmith of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has ruled that the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority must reconsider an advertisement it had previously rejected for placement on the sides of its buses. [.pdf of Dec. 17, 2012 court order] The ad included the text “Boycott ‘Israel’ Boycott Apartheid.”

In the course of the lawsuit, which was filed by Ann Arbor resident Blaine Coleman over a year ago, the court found in favor of Coleman on his request for a preliminary injunction. But Goldsmith left the question of appropriate relief to be determined. Since that initial ruling, the AATA board, at its Nov. 29, 2012 meeting, revised its advertising policy. For detailed coverage, see “AATA Adopts New Advertising Policy.”

The court is now ordering the AATA to reconsider the advertisement under its new policy. Crucially, the new policy omits a “good taste” provision, which the court found to be unconstitutional. The policy also includes a revised provision that previously disallowed ads supporting or opposing political candidates or ballot propositions. The new policy more broadly bans “political or political campaign advertising.”

The court’s order establishes a timeline: (1) By Dec. 21, 2012, Coleman resubmits the ad – either the original version of the ad or a revised version. (2) By Jan. 4, 2013, the AATA reconsiders the ad under the revised advertising policy and notifies Coleman. (3) On Jan. 9, 2013 a status conference will be held to discuss whether additional preliminary injunctive relief is proper and what will happen next.