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Agema v. City of Allegan

United States District Court, Western District of Michigan, Southern Division

March 9, 2015

DAVID AGEMA et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF ALLEGAN et al., Defendants.

OPINION

JANET T. NEFF, United States District Judge

Now pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed by the parties who remain in this action (Dkts 168 & 170). Having fully considered the parties' written briefs and accompanying exhibits and being otherwise familiar with the facts of this case, the Court finds that the relevant facts and arguments are adequately presented in these materials and that oral argument would not aid the decisional process. See W.D. Mich. LCivR 7.2(d). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Defendants summary judgment (Dkt 168) and denies Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment (Dkt 170).

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises from a January 26, 2012 event organized by Plaintiffs David Agema, Elizabeth Griffin, Mark Gurley, and Willis Sage at the Allegan High School in Michigan, an event that featured Kamal Saleem (Saleem) and Plaintiff Agema as speakers (Dkt 49, First Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 63, 6). According to Plaintiffs, "Saleem heads Koome Ministries, a nonprofit organization which teaches about the dangers of radical Islam" (id. ¶ 75). Plaintiffs allege that Saleem "has a unique perspective on the internal threat to America posed by Sharia law and radical Muslims as he was once a Muslim involved in terrorist activities who has since transformed himself and converted to Christianity" (id. ¶ 76). On January 26, 2012, Plaintiff Agema was the Michigan State Representative for the 74th District serving in the Michigan House of Representatives, and Plaintiff Sage was a County Commissioner for the County of Allegan, Michigan (id. ¶¶ 12, 18). Plaintiff Griffin is identified as a Chapter Leader for the organization "ACT! for America" (id. ¶ 15). Plaintiff Gurley paid for the airfare of Saleem and his bodyguard to facilitate their attendance at the event (id. ¶ 17).

As of January 26, 2012, Kevin Harness was the Superintendent of the Allegan Public School District ("the School District") and Jim Mallard was the Principal of Allegan High School (Dkt 49, First Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 38-39). Commissioner Sage met with Principal Mallard for the purpose of renting a room at Allegan High School for the event (id. ¶ 67). Sage and Mallard agreed to the rental of a room at Allegan High School for Plaintiffs' event (id. ¶¶ 21, 72). Sage paid $90 to rent the room (id.).

Commissioner Sage also met with City of Allegan Police Chief Rick Hoyer (Dkt 49, First Amend. Compl. ¶ 83). Plaintiffs allege that Sage explained to Chief Hoyer that "Saleem is considered by some to be ‘an ex-terrorist who has converted to Christianity'" (id. ¶ 85). "Sage requested the presence of two officers for the [] event" (id. ¶ 86).

In a letter dated January 24, 2012 and directed to Superintendent Harness and Principal Mallard, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Michigan (CAIR-MI) and the President of People For The American Way (PFAW) requested that the School District disallow Saleem from speaking at the event (Dkt 49, First Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 91-99).

The January 26, 2012 event was scheduled to take place at Allegan High School from 6:00 a. to 9:00 p.m. City of Allegan police officers, including Chief Hoyer, arrived at Allegan High School before the event. Shortly before the event was to take place, a woman approached the police officers at Allegan High School and "stated that Kamal Saleem had a $25 million dollar bounty on his head" (Dkt 49, First Amend. Compl. ¶ 114). An Allegan police officer talked with Jones, Saleem's bodyguard, who did not deny that a bounty existed (id. ¶¶ 119-22). "Jones further stated that there had been death threats directed toward Kamal Saleem from Islamic extremists in the past" (id. ¶ 124). While the event was still in progress, Chief Hoyer ordered Plaintiffs to shut down the event (id. ¶ 135). Other events were occurring simultaneously in other locations within the Allegan High School building while Saleem was speaking (id. ¶ 162).

Plaintiffs initiated this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with the filing of a Complaint on April 30, 2012 (Dkt 1). On January 8, 2013, with leave of the Court, Plaintiffs amended their Complaint. Their First Amended Complaint (Dkt 49) names nine Defendants: the City of Allegan, Chief Hoyer, the School District, Superintendent Harness, Principal Mallard, CAIR-MI, CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid (Walid), PFAW, and PFAW's Executive Director Michael B. Keegan (Keegan). In their First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs assert four "claims for relief" under the following legal theories:

Count I: "Freedom of Speech-First Amendment against Defendants City; School District; Chief of Police, Rick Hoyer; Superintendent Kevin Harness; and Principal Jim Mallard"
Count II: "Freedom of Assembly-First Amendment against Defendants City; School District; Chief of Police, Rick Hoyer; Superintendent Kevin Harness; and Principal Jim Mallard"
Count III: "Breach of Contract against School District"
Count IV: "Tortious Interference of Contract against Defendants CAIR-MI, Dawud Walid, People For the American ...

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