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Bormuth v. County of Jackson

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 22, 2015

PETER BORMUTH, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF JACKSON, Defendant

Peter Bormuth, Plaintiff, Pro se, Jackson, MI.

For County of Jackson, Defendant: Richard D. McNulty, Cohl, Stoker, Lansing, MI.

Page 851

OPINION AND ORDER OVERRULING THE PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS, OVERRULING IN PART AND SUSTAINING IN PART DEFENDANT'S OBJECTIONS, ADOPTING IN PART THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

HON. MARIANNE O. BATTANI, United States District Judge.

The present case arises from Plaintiff Peter Bormuth's (" Bormuth's" ) Establishment Clause challenge to Defendant County of Jackson's (" Jackson's" ) practice of opening its Board of Commissioner meetings with prayer invocations delivered by members of the Board. Before the Court are

Page 852

Bormuth's and Jackson's objections to Magistrate Judge Hluchaniuk's March 31, 2015, Report and Recommendation (" R& R" ). (Docs. 51, 53.) In the R& R (Doc. 50), the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court grant Bormuth's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 37) and deny Jackson's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 25). For the reasons that follow, the Court OVERRULES Bormuth's objections, OVERRULES IN PART AND SUSTAINS IN PART Jackson's objections, ADOPTS IN PART the R& R, GRANTS Jackson's Motion for Summary Judgment, and DENIES Bormuth's Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

As the parties have not objected to the R& R's recitation of the facts, the Court adopts that portion of the R& R. (See Doc. 50, pp. 2-6.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Report and Recommendations

Pursuant to statute, this Court's standard of review for a magistrate judge's report and recommendation requires a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. Id.

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriately rendered " if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Redding v. St. Eward, 241 F.3d 530, 532 (6th Cir. 2001). The court must determine " whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. McGowan, 421 F.3d 433, 436 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). The evidence and all reasonable inferences must be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

Where the movant establishes the lack of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden of demonstrating the existence of such an issue shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with " specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). That is, the party opposing a motion for summary judgment must make an affirmative showing with proper evidence and must " designate specific facts in affidavits, depositions, or other factual material showing 'evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.'" Brown v. Scott, 329 F.Supp.2d 905, 910 (6th Cir. 2004). In order to fulfill this burden, the non-moving party need only demonstrate the minimal standard that a jury could ostensibly find in his favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; McLean v. 988011 Ontario, Ltd., 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). However, mere allegations or denials in the non-movant's pleadings will not satisfy this burden, nor will a mere scintilla of evidence supporting the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 251.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Sectarian Prayer

As a preliminary matter, the Court briefly addresses Bormuth's objection that

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the Magistrate Judge failed to determine the merits of the case in accordance with the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797. The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the Treaty of Tripoli is nothing more than a confirmation that the treaty was executed by the United States not as a religious power but as a secular state. Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America 11 (2006) (" The assurances . . . were intended to allay the fears of the Muslim state by insisting that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced . . . . [and] that the pact was ...


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