Religious Liberty on the Docket

ACLU v. DeWeese

This case falls into the legal category of:

Status:
Closed
Case Dates:
Wednesday, 7 October, 2009 - Monday, 5 December, 2011
Facts:

James DeWeese, a common pleas court judge in Mansfield (Richland County), had a homemade poster of the 10 Commandments framed and on display on a wall of his courtroom. We successfully sued him and eventually, it seems, he took it down. There is now a new poster in the courtroom contrasting the 10 Commandments, described as “Moral Absolutes,” with “Moral Relatives: Humanist Precepts.” The poster offers this analysis and perspective:

The cases passing through this courtroom demonstrate we are paying a high cost in increased crime and other ills from moving from moral absolutism to moral relativism since the middle of the 20th century. Our founders saw the necessity of moral absolutes. President John Adams said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” The Declaration of Independence acknowledges God as Creator, Lawgiver, “Supreme Judge of the World,” and the One who providentially superintends the affairs of men. Ohio’s Constitution acknowledges Almighty God as the source of our freedom. I join the founders in personally acknowledging the importance of Almighty God’s fixed moral standards for restoring the moral fabric of this nation.

Legal Theory:

The old poster constituted an endorsement of religion in violation of the First Amendment. The new one does, too, and violates the underlying orders.

Status:

We sued in federal court over the first poster, asserting that it was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The court agreed and ordered DeWeese to remove the poster. He appealed the decision to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which affirmed the decision by 2-1 vote in July 2004. DeWeese appealed to the Supreme Court which refused to hear the case.

On May 29, 2008, we filed in the Northern District federal court a motion to show cause why DeWeese should not be held in contempt for hanging the second poster. On August 8, 2008, our motion to show cause why DeWeese should not be held in contempt was denied on the basis that it was not the same poster.

We filed a new complaint on October 7, 2008. We filed a motion for summary judgment on June 5, 2009, which was fully briefed by both sided in July 2009. On October 8, 2009, the District Court granted our motion for summary judgment on all claims and ruled that the latest display violates the First Amendment.

DeWeese appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the case was fully briefed. The Sixth Circuit heard oral argument on December 1, 2010. On Feb. 2, 2011, the 6th Circuit ruled 3-0 in our favor, affirming the lower court decision that DeWeese’s actions violate the First Amendment.

We filed a joint motion in the district court on Feb. 9 for extension of time to file our attorney fee petition until the conclusion of all appeals, which the court granted Feb. 10, 2011.

DeWeese filed a motion for rehearing en banc in the 6th Circuit on Feb. 16, 2011. The Sixth Circuit denied en banc (by the full court) on March 16, 2011. DeWeese filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on June 13, 2011. We filed our Brief in Opposition to cert on July 18, 2011. The U.S. Supreme Court on October 3, 2011 denied DeWeese’s petition for certiorari. On October 12, 2011 we filed a motion for extension of time to file attorney’s fees, which was granted. On October 27, 2011 we filed our motion seeking attorney’s fees and costs. DeWeese filed a motion in opposition on November 11, 2011. We subsequently filed our reply brief on November 18, 2011. On December 5, 2011, the court granted our motion for attorney’s fees and costs.