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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
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D.C.’s Discovery Response Slammed as Nonsense

WASHINGTON (CN) - Attorneys for the District of Columbia lobbed "baseless arguments that fly in the face of reality and common sense" to fight free-speech claims from a Muslim group, a federal judge ruled.

The Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (Answer) Coalition and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation (MASF) filed suit in 2007 over regulations that limit the amount of time their political signs can remain on lampposts.

In D.C., anyone may post a sign expressing a general political message for 60 days. Signs related to a specific event can hang indefinitely before the event, but they must be removed within 30 days of its occurrence.

The Answer Coalition alleged separately that it received 99 citations for using destructive adhesive to post signs advertising its March to Stop the War event on public lampposts and electrical boxes.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy dismissed the case, but a successful appeal brought the case to the docket of Chief U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth for further proceedings.

The Answer Coalition voluntarily dismissed its claims against the city, but Lamberth advanced MASF's challenges to the regulations.

In discovery, MASF has sought documents regarding city instructions to its staff.

The city has since filed for 11 interrogatories and a related request for document production.

Lamberth noted last week that the maneuver was unnecessarily broad.

"In further demonstration of defendant's complete ignorance as to the procedural setting of this case, the district propounded four interrogatories ... to ANSWER - who the court had dismissed from the action - and to claims that the court likewise dismissed," he wrote.

Though the city withdrew the interrogatories against the Answer Coalition, MASF sought a protective order against the rest of the motion. Lamberth granted the request.

"Highlighting its own hypocrisy, in a section entitled 'Argument,' the district asserts - without any real 'argument,' just a conclusory sentence - that plaintiff failed to meet its burden for a protective order because plaintiff 'relie[d] entirely on conclusory statements, with no specific facts or admissible evidence," he wrote. "This, in fact, is the definition of irony."

In addition to granting for a protective order against the discovery, Lamberth also awarded MASF attorneys' fees for this portion of the litigation.

"Like two old neighbors, our offices are located a stone's throw from each other," the 11-page decision states. "Our personnel interact daily. So long as the OAG's office exists, its attorneys will appear before this court. An amicable relationship - beneficial to all parties - is preferred but not preordained. It can only exist and endure when each party trusts the other. And that trust is undermined when OAG attorneys submit pleadings that invert reality to make arguments for the sake of argument."

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