Lawsuit seeking restraining order dropped after protester served notice of intent to seek attorney’s fees under anti-SLAPP statute
Reem’s bakery in Oakland, CA, prominently displays a full-wall mural of Rasmea Odeh, who recently was deported for immigration fraud.
Rasmea is the former military member of the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who was convicted in Israel in 1970 of the 1969 supermarket bombing that killed two Hebrew University students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner. She also was convicted of the attempted bombing of the British Consulate. Rasmea and her supporters have concocted a phony claim that Rasmea only was convicted because of a false confession extracted after 25 days of sexual torture.
That claim is demonstrably false, yet the claim is repeated non-stop to this day, as I discuss in The Lies of Rasmea Odeh and Her Supporters Exposed.
Prof. Miriam Elman extensively profiled the background of the protests outside the bakery, and the attempts of the bakery owner to prevent the protests by asking the shopping center to remove them (which likely would violate California’s free speech protections).
Prof. Elman’s post includes images and video, as well as background on the bakery owner, Reem Asil, Anti-Israel activists try to shut down protests over California bakery honoring Palestinian terrorist.
Offended by the local café’s glorification of violence, for the past several months a small group of Oakland residents have been organizing protests, trying to educate the local community about Odeh’s past terror activities and the two young men whose lives she snuffed out in February 1969.
At one of the vigils, the small group of protesters—including elderly people—were physically attacked. Even when there haven’t been assaults, anti-Israel activists have tried to disrupt the protests.
They’ve also been trying to shut them down altogether.
Prof. Elman detailed how the protesters were attacked and had signs ripped away from them.
The bakery owner, Reem Assil, tried to obtain an ex parte Temporary Restraining Order preventing the protests from taking place in front of the bakery, but was denied by the court.
The relief sought was pretty sweeping (and unconstitutional), including keeping protester Michael Lumish, and two others from protesting near the bakery, and even trying to restrain Lumish’s blog writing about Reem’s. The details are in my post, Reem’s Oakland bakery seeks Ct order halting protests over terrorist mural.
Despite the legal threats, protests continued outside the bakery, as we reported in Vigils continue for Rasmea Odeh’s victims outside Reem’s Oakland Bakery despite legal threats.
Lumish was represented by attorneys Mitch Danzig and Evan Nadel of Mintz Levin. The representation was arranged through the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department of the pro-Israel StandWithUs group.
The cases were scheduled for a hearing on October 19 on the request for injunctive relief. That request had close to zero chance of success because Assil was trying to suppress constitutionally protected speech, and also was asking the court to engage in a prior restraint of speech by Lumish on his blog.
Legal Insurrection has learned that the case against Lumish and the two other protesters has been dismissed by Assil, as reflected on the Court dockets.
The dismissal came after Mintz Levin, on behalf of Lumish, served notice on Assil’s lawyer of an intent to invoke the California anti-SLAPP statute.
That statute, similar to anti-SLAPP statutes in many other states, provides an early means of dismissal for lawsuits brought to silence constitutionally protected speech on matters of public controversy, such as the mural in Reem’s Bakery honoring a terrorist. If the judge found the anti-SLAPP statute applied, Assil would have had to pay the defendant’s attorney’s fees and costs.
Faced with the legal reality that the attempt to use a lawsuit to silence protected speech could boomerang and force Assil to pay the protesters’ legal fees, Assil dropped the cases.
Mintz Levin declined to comment at this time. Yael Lerman, Director, StandWithUs Saidoff Legal department, provided the following statement: “We are thrilled for the Respondents that this meritless lawsuit was dismissed and especially proud of our partnership on this case with the Mintz Levin law firm. This is a prime example of what can be achieved when we partner with pro-bono attorneys to help those in need.”
Faith Meltzer, one of the protesters who was not named in the lawsuits, provided the following statement:
“I was relieved to hear that Reem Assil has dropped the spurious accusations, and I am profoundly grateful for the counsel and advice we received from attorneys and scholars across the nation, who recognized Assil’s actions for what they were – an attack on all of our rights to lawful assembly and free speech.”
Lawfare by anti-Israel groups and activists is an increasing threat used to suppress pro-Israel opinion.
That Assil had to drop the case represents a significant victory not just for the defendants, but for the rights of Israel supporters to exercise their constitutional rights without fear of litigation.
UPDATE 10-11-2017: Mintz Levin provided the following statement:
The lawsuit against Mr. Lumish has been dismissed by the plaintiff, Reem Assil. Early yesterday morning, we provided notice to Ms. Assil’s counsel that we were going to appear in court ex parte on Wednesday to adjust certain pending case dates because we would be filing later that day – on behalf of Mr. Lumish – a motion to strike Ms. Assil’s case as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (“SLAPP” suit) designed to chill Mr. Lumish’s exercise of his free speech rights. A few hours later, while we were waiting for the Court to provide a hearing date for our Anti-SLAPP motion, we received word from the Court of the plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal.
Because Ms. Assil’s lawsuit against Mr. Lumish was precisely the type of effort to use the courts to try to obtain a content-based prior restraint on political speech, which California law does not countenance, we are very pleased that Mr. Lumish is no longer facing the burden of having to deal with such an action and attempt to intimidate him and others from engaging in peaceful protest. In light of the time and effort that we were required to invest in order to vindicate Mr. Lumish and to stand up for his free speech rights, we are considering the possibility of recovering defense fees and costs from Ms. Assil and/or her counsel in connection with this action and with their effort to silence protest against Ms. Assil’s own political speech and choice to use her restaurant to honor a convicted murderer and terrorist.
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