ACLU Case Suffers Major Setback from Appeals Court Ruling

Liberty Counsel Press Release

A federal appeals court has reversed the decision in American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Inc. v. Dixie County Florida. Last summer, a U.S. District Judge ruled in favor of the ACLU and ordered Dixie County to remove the six-ton granite monument of the Ten Commandments. The recent ruling reverses that decision and sends the case back down to the district court on standing.

In question is whether the ACLU member from North Carolina, who has never lived nor owned property in Dixie County, has standing to sue the county. Judge Edmondson said the “plaintiff’s theory of standing is makeshift in nature: some kind of cursory, drive-by theory of standing—insufficient to kick on our powers.

Mr. Doe first testified that several things about the county bothered him, including the monument, a cartoon taped near a county employee’s desk, and a reference to a website known as “Patriot Properties.” After the county moved for summary judgment on the basis of a lack of standing, Mr. Doe filed an affidavit in which he claimed that it was only the monument that offended him.

The appeals court found these two versions of Mr. Doe’s testimony contradictory: “Doe’s affidavit—which is suspect, given that it seems designed to strengthen Doe’s standing claim—is inconsistent with his deposition.” Therefore, the court concluded, it was improper for the lower court to decide the case in favor of the ACLU and Mr. Doe.

All three appeals court judges agreed to set aside the ruling. Two directed the case back to the district court to resolve the conflicts in the plaintiff’s testimony. Judge Edmondson would have dismissed the case without sending it back. He wrote, “The record (including Doe’s deposition) cannot assure the federal courts that … Doe would seriously even consider buying property in the County … if a federal court required the monument to be removed, overriding the elected county officers’ own decisions to allow the monument.”

Liberty Counsel represents Dixie County. Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The ACLU has a habit of rolling into town and suing over the slightest claimed offense. The appeals court quite properly called their hand in this case and rightly questioned whether Mr. Doe has suffered any legitimate injury at all.”