As previously reported, Paul Dobrowolski was ticketed last year for displaying signs inside of his vehicle as part of his outreach to abortion-minded mothers. “Ask to See the Ultrasound,” “Abortion Hurts Women,” and “Free Ultrasound, Family Life Services, 2950 Packard, YPSI, 734-434-3088” were among the messages displayed in his legally-parked vehicle.
Police had reportedly told Dobrowolski that it was against the law for him to “advertise” on his car. The Ann Arbor city code prohibits parking on the street “for the principal purpose of . . . [d]isplaying advertising.” Since Dobrowolski’s sign was considered “advertising,” police asserted that he had violated the code, and issued the pro-lifer several tickets.
During a hearing for one of the incidents, a female police officer reportedly testified that she was directed by her supervisor to ticket Dobrowolski after a local business complained about the matter. The court found the sidewalk counselor guilty, advising that he “could have stored the signs in any other fashion [in the vehicle]; [he] could have laid them down; [or he] could have put them in the trunk” so that no one would read the messages and avoided legal penalties.
“But you don’t put them up in the window the way these things are with the desire for anything other than that somebody else is going to see them and that that person is going to be influenced by what they see,” the judge stated.
The court added that other signs besides Dobrowolski’s “free ultrasound” sign were permissible because they constituted “political speech” and not “advertising.”
The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed a suit on Dobrowolski’s behalf last month, asking a federal court to issue an injunction against the city and its police department from barring him from displaying the signs. U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain agreed to freeze the law–at least as it pertains to Dobrowolski– while the sidewalk counselor’s case moved forward in court.
On Wednesday, Drain decided to make the injunction permanent.
“The parties agree that Plaintiff’s display of his vehicle signs as set forth in the Complaint is activity governed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” the stipulated order reads. “The parties stipulate that Defendants will be permanently enjoined from applying and enforcing Ann Arbor City Code § 10:60(3) to prohibit the display of Plaintiff’s vehicle signs as set forth in the Complaint.”
The City will now pay $7,000 in attorney’s fees and costs. Dobrowolski received monetary compensation of just $50.
“This is a clear victory for the First Amendment rights of those who engage in pro-life speech to protect the unborn,” commented American Freedom Law Center co-founder Robert Muise following the issuance of the order. “Through this order, Mr. Dobrowolski’s constitutional rights have been vindicated, and he can now resume his pro-life advocacy free from government interference.”