Bormuth v. Jackson (U.S.C.A. 6th Circuit, 2017)

6th Circuit Court of Appeals ,

At issue in this case before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals en banc (entire court) is an Establishment Clause challenge to opening Christian prayers delivered at public meetings of a county board of commissioners by the commissioners themselves. The plaintiff — a non-attorney — represented himself throughout the case. Although a Sixth Circuit three-judge panel ruled in his favor, it also found that the trial court made an error by prohibiting the plaintiff from questioning commissioners in depositions. The panel, however, found the error to be harmless because it had ruled in the plaintiff’s favor. ADL filed an amicus brief on behalf of neither party discussing the significance of the flawed factual record in the case. It asserts that due to the highly fact intensive nature of Establishment Clause cases, a fully-developed factual record is essential for courts to properly evaluate such cases. Because the record in this case is fundamentally flawed in several ways, the Sixth Court en banc should send the case back down to the trial court for the record to be fully developed and plaintiff’s claims to be re-litigated.