The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

"Plaintiff's Answer to the Complaint or the Appropriate Motion [Must] Be Written in English"


From Judge Paul Maloney's opinion Friday in Al Qassimi Academy v. Abuhaltam (W.D. Mich.) [UPDATE: note that some of the references to "Plaintiff" presumably mean "Defendant"]:

Plaintiff is an educational institution serving the Muslim Arabic community in Israel. Defendant resides in Okemos, Michigan. In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges Defendant has defamed and slandered Plaintiff in various social media outlets….

Plaintiff is currently not represented by an attorney, he is "pro se." This Court must liberally construe the pleadings and other filings of pro se parties. The United States Supreme Court has cautioned that this rule does not relieve a pro se litigant of the obligation to follow a court's procedural rules ….

Plaintiff asks the Court "for extina of time AT least I need Tow moth to Print All Decoumnt releted to this case witch in the sosha sotial media it is over than 175 thousend pages…" Plaintiff's "motion" exceeds 380 pages. Most of the pages are printouts from various websites. And, most of the pages are in Arabic. Approximately 30 pages are handwritten in English. The Court infers that English is not Defendant's first language….

The Court GRANTS Defendant's motion for an extension of time (ECF No. 7). Defendant MUST file his answer to the complaint (a responsive pleading) or an appropriate motion no later than May 18, 2023. The Court urges Defendant to review the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of Civil Procedure for the Western District of Michigan, both of which can be accessed through this Court's website. Generally, a defendant does not need to present any extrinsic evidence (such as print outs from social media) in order to answer a complaint. The Court also directs Defendant to Local Rule of Civil Procedure 7.1(b), which limits exhibits and attachments to a motion to 200 pages per party.

In an exercise of discretion, the Court requires Plaintiff's answer to the complaint or the appropriate motion to be written in English. The Court is unaware of any statute or rule that requires pleadings and motions be written in English. The Court cannot read Arabic. Defendant's submissions indicate he can understand English and has a limited ability to communicate in English….

Defendant submitted another 94 pages for his motion to dismiss. Again, most of the pages are written in Arabic and most of the pages are print outs or copies of documents. About four of the pages are handwritten in English. Defendant asks the Court to dismiss the case "becuse I have Alut of witeness over sees and the other Party use the Low to Attack the Other Pebule they have Alat of mony and All How show there coraption sutt ther mouth by using the mony wich steel it from the Poor People by the Name of God and whin hey Do ther Crime they Do it with expert to Cover ther coraption and the have Alut of layer witenesess." The Court does not know the content of any of the pages in Arabic.

The Court DISMISSES without prejudice Defendant's motion to dismiss. Because the Court does not read Arabic, the Court cannot discern the content of most of Defendant's submissions. Defendant may refile his motion to dismiss in English….

More on the case, which I wrote about in March:

Plaintiff is an academic institution located in Israel. The Israeli government has issued a license to the Academy. The Academy provides educational and religious services to the Muslim Arabic community in Israel….

Plaintiff complains that Defendant [who is in Michigan] uses his Facebook account and other social media platforms to make false, defamatory, and slanderous statements about the Academy and individuals associated with it. Plaintiff pleads that Defendant uses fighting words and incites violence against Plaintiff's Board members, staff and their families.

Defendant accuses Plaintiff and those associated with Plaintiff of being agents and proxies of Israel. Plaintiff denies being an agent or proxy of the Israeli government. Plaintiff alleges that extremist groups frequently target and threaten members of the Muslim Arabic community in Israel who are seen as agents of or working too closely with the Israeli government.

Plaintiff contends that Defendant refers to individuals associated with the Academy as pigs and uses porcine imagery to insult those individuals. Plaintiff pleads that many Muslims consider pigs to be vile, filthy animals and being compared to a pig is equivalent to being accused of being a disbeliever or a heathen. Plaintiff filed a declaration from a board member in which the board members states that "[a]ll the claims and publications made by the Defendants against us are false." …

Our United States Supreme Court cautions that temporary restraining orders are extraordinary and drastic remedies that may be issued only under "stringent restrictions" and their limited availability "reflect the fact that our entire jurisprudence runs counter to the notion of court action taken before reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard has been granted both sides of a dispute." … Under [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 65, a court may issue a temporary restraining order, without notice to the adverse party, only if two conditions are met. First, the moving party must establish specific facts through an affidavit or a verified complaint showing that an immediate and irreparable injury will result to the moving party before the adverse party can be heard in opposition to the motion. Second, the counsel for the moving party must certify in writing any efforts made to give notice and the reasons why notice should not be required. In addition, the court must consider each of four factors: (1) whether the moving party demonstrates a strong likelihood of success on the merits; (2) whether the moving party would suffer irreparable injury without the order; (3) whether the order would cause substantial harm to others; and (4) whether the public interest would be served by the order.

Plaintiff has not met the requirements in Rule 65(b) for a temporary restraining order. The declaration filed with the complaint does not identify an irreparable injury that will occur before the adverse party can be heard in opposition. The declaration only denies the truth of Defendant's statements. And, counsel has not certified in writing any efforts to give notice to Defendant about this matter or provided reasons why notice should not be required.