Judge throws out lawsuit against Maryland's anti-BDS bill

Federal judge throws out CAIR's lawsuit seeking to block Maryland from enforcing its ban on contracting with businesses that boycott Israel.

Elad Benari ,

BDS activists
BDS activists
iStock

A federal judge on Monday threw out a lawsuit in which a Muslim civil rights group sought to block the state of Maryland from enforcing its ban on contracting with businesses that boycott Israel, The Associated Press reported.

US District Judge Catherine Blake didn’t reach a decision on whether the executive order that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed in October 2017 is constitutional.

The judge ruled that a software engineer who is named as the lawsuit’s plaintiff hasn’t shown he has suffered any “direct injury” giving him the legal standing to challenge the order, according to AP.

The order bars the state from doing business with companies that boycott Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, and requires contractors to certify in writing that they do not boycott Israel. The order was called “Prohibiting Discriminatory Boycotts of Israel in State Procurement.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sued Hogan and state Attorney General Brian Frosh on behalf of software engineer Syed Saqib Ali, a former state legislator. CAIR argued the order has an unconstitutional chilling effect on First Amendment-protected political advocacy supporting Palestinian Arabs.

Ali’s lawsuit said Hogan’s order bars him from bidding for government software program contracts because he supports boycotts of businesses and organizations that “contribute to the oppression of Palestinians.”

But Ali hasn’t submitted any bids, so Blake ruled Monday that he cannot proceed on the basis of a “direct injury.”

Last October, the judge initially dismissed Ali’s complaint “without prejudice,” meaning he could refile the case. In that ruling, the judge said Ali would have to plausibly show that his First Amendment free speech rights had been violated.

Ali filed an amended complaint later that month, claiming Hogan’s order violates his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly. He also claimed the order and the mandated “No Boycott of Israel” certification in Maryland bids and contracts are unconstitutionally vague.

In Monday’s ruling, the judge said Ali hasn’t shown that his free speech has been “chilled” by the certification requirement or that he engaged in any self-censorship.

Maryland is one of several US states to have approved anti-BDS legislation in recent years. These include New York, California, New Jersey, Indiana, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Montana, Kansas and Virginia.

The American Civil Liberties Union has raised objections to many of the laws, saying they inhibit free speech. The group achieved some success in Kansas, where a federal judge in January temporarily blocked the local anti-BDS law.

In September of 2019, a speech pathologist in Austin, Texas, challenged the state’s anti-BDS legislation and filed a lawsuit against the local public school district, after she was let go for refusing to sign an agreement that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel.



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