Jun 8, 2017
SPRINGFIELD, MA – Earlier this week federal Judge Michael A. Ponsor ruled that he lacked jurisdiction to hear a lawsuit against Pastor Scott Lively by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Company that the federal Alien Tort Statute (ATS) does not allow a foreign citizen to sue a U.S. citizen in America alleging violation of some international law. Even though the court dismissed the case in favor of Lively, due to the prejudicial and immaterial findings and outrageous statements by Judge Ponsor, today Liberty Counsel filed an appeal to strike Judge Ponsor’s language that was not necessary to the disposition of the case.
Judge Ponsor should have dismissed the case in 2013, when asked to do so following the Supreme Court opinion. Instead, he forced Lively to needlessly endure four more years of intense litigation and discovery by the army of lawyers working for the Center for Constitutional Rights, an organization that has received funding from George Soros.
Judge Ponsor had no choice but to follow clear U.S. Supreme Court precedent when he ruled this week the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. That should have been the end of the matter. But, Judge Ponsor, known for his support of the LGBT agenda, went on to appease the LGBT activists by making unlawful “findings,” including that Pastor Lively violated international law of “crimes against humanity.”
Judge Ponsor had correctly concluded that he lacks jurisdiction over the lawsuit brought under the Alien Tort Statute by the Ugandan homosexual activists, because SMUG had failed to bring forth any evidence that Lively did anything illegal in the United States. Judge Ponsor correctly found that Lively “supplied no financial backing,” and “he directed no physical violence, he hired no employees and he provided no supplies or other material support” to alleged “crimes” supposedly committed by various people in Uganda.
However, Judge Ponsor improperly littered his Order with a prolonged tirade against Lively, badly distorting his Christian views and activism, and insulting him with such unbecoming epithets as “crackpot bigot,” “pathetic,” “ludicrous,” “abhorrent” and numerous others. Even more egregiously, and even though he admittedly lacked jurisdiction to rule on SMUG’s claims, Judge Ponsor purported to conclude, without even a pretense of legal or factual analysis, that Lively’s Christian beliefs and pro-family activism violated “international law” and that Lively’s peaceful speaking on homosexuality in Uganda somehow “aided and abetted” crimes supposedly committed by people Lively has never even spoken to or met.
“Judge Ponsor’s vitriolic Order is clearly unlawful,” said Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel’s Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Litigation Counsel. “Once Judge Ponsor concluded that he lacked jurisdiction over SMUG’s preposterous lawsuit, the only thing left to do was dismiss it. The Supreme Court, and many federal appellate courts, have repeatedly rebuked judges who inject unnecessary and prejudicial ‘findings’ in cases where they lack jurisdiction. We will defend Pastor’s Lively’s name in the Court of Appeals and work to remedy this injustice,” said Mihet.
Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, added: “It is improper for a judge who clearly lacks jurisdiction to hear a case to make legal findings unrelated to the disposition of the case. When a court lacks jurisdiction, its only job is to acknowledge that fact and end the case. Judge Ponsor allowed his support for the LGBT agenda to enter an opinion and make prejudicial findings laced with defamatory statements that are both illegal and unbecoming. The statements are so far outside the norm that we have filed an appeal to ask that these prejudicial and unnecessary statements be stricken. Judges may hold personal opinions like anyone else, but they should restrain themselves from lacing court rulings with them, especially when they admit they lack jurisdiction to hear the case,” said Staver.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.