Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce Joins Amicus Brief on appeal from the United States District Court For the Eastern District of Michigan on Beth Israel Synagogue Harassment Case

Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce Joins Amicus Brief On appeal from the United States District Court
For the Eastern District of Michigan on Beth Israel Synagogue Harassment Case


The Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce is joining a host of other Jewish organizations on a case concerning harassment of synagogue worshipers in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Renowned lawyer Nathan Lewin is filing an amicus brief on behalf of the organizations that urges the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its harsh ruling against synagogue congregants who sought relief from antisemitic picketers.

The amicus brief concerns the latest legal blow to the congregants in which the appeals court upheld a decision by the lower courts obligating them to pay the defendants’ attorneys’ fees after losing what the court deemed a “frivolous lawsuit.” According to the court, the plaintiffs’ claims all “plainly lacked one or more elements required under settled precedent.” The case originated in 2019 when congregants at the Beth Israel Synagogue decided to take action on a nuisance they had been enduring for over 15 years. A group of anti-Israel protesters had taken to holding protests outside the synagogue just as congregants assembled there each Saturday to hold services and had doggedly persisted in this harassment week after week and year after year. The congregants turned to the courts to enjoin the protests, arguing that their antagonists should not be allowed to protest in a way that deliberately disturbs and intimidates. After making its way to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the plaintiffs’ claim was denied on grounds that they had failed to show that their civil rights were being violated.

On February 22 of this year, the court went further in upholding a decision to award attorneys’ fees to the defendants. US law considers such a step against the plaintiffs in a civil rights case to be “an extreme sanction” that “must be limited to truly egregious cases of misconduct.” In response, Jewish organizations, who had previously filed an amicus brief on the ruling against the plaintiffs’ claim, are now filing an amicus brief petitioning the court for a rehearing en banc (a measure sometimes granted in especially significant cased that consists of a review of the case by a greater number of judges) on the award of attorneys’ fees. 

They argue that by punishing the plaintiffs for seeking judicial relief so they can worship freely, the court sends a deterrent message that jeopardizes future efforts to get court protection for civil rights. The Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce joins together with these organizations in calling for respect of religious liberty and the right to practice one’s religion peacefully without interference by malicious agitators.