Article Curtesy of Theoaklandpress.comBy: Joe Slezak, The Oakland PressPublish Date: 03/01/2013Judge delays final settlement in non-halal chicken case at Dearborn McDonald's
DETROIT — An attorney for a group that unknowingly ate haram chicken at an east Dearborn McDonald’s successfully argued for a delay in the final settlement of the case.
Steven Kiousis, listed as “attorney for certain objecting class members,” convinced Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald on Friday morning to delay the settlement hearing to 11 a.m. Tuesday because he wanted give the 35 group members more time to elect to be part of the class-action settlement. He said he was not notified in time about a previous settlement hearing.
Macdonald also granted a motion allowing Michael Steinberg, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, the opportunity to file a brief in support of Dearborn attorney Majed Moughni, who is not part of the case, but objected to the settlement offer.
Last month, Macdonald ordered Moughni to remove information about the case from the Dearborn Area Community Members Facebook page, which he administers, and put her original class-action settlement order and her order against Moughni on the page, which he did.
Moughni also is prohibited from communicating with class-action lawsuit members and the media about the case without prior written permission.
He did not attend Friday’s hearing.
Macdonald ruled Jan. 18 that McDonald’s and Finley’s Management Co., the franchise owner of the restaurant at 13158 Ford Road, must pay $700,000 to settle the suit brought by Ahmed Ahmed of Dearborn Heights, who claimed that the fast-food restaurant sold chicken that was labeled as halal but really wasn’t after it ran out of halal chicken.
“Halal” refers to meeting Islamic requirements for preparing food. God’s name must be invoked before an animal providing meat for consumption is slaughtered. “Haram” is the term for something forbidden in Islam.
Macdonald ruled that of the $700,000, Ahmed will get about $20,000; the Health Unit on Davison Avenue Inc. in Detroit, also known as HUDA, will get about $274,000; the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn will get about $150,000; and attorneys will get about $230,000.
Ahmed is being represented by Jaafar & Mahdi Law Group of Dearborn.
Moughni posted on the Dearborn Area Community Members page he thought it was unfair the money primarily would not go to those who ate the haram chicken. He asked for page members who ate the food to leave contact information for themselves and others who ate the meat.
Kassem Dakhlallah, one of Ahmed’s attorneys, filed a motion for injunctive relief against Moughni on Jan. 31; Macdonald ruled in his favor Feb. 7 and imposed the restrictions on Moughni. Moughni filed a motion Feb. 15 to overturn Macdonald’s ruling against him; she dismissed it Feb. 22.
In anticipation of Friday’s final settlement hearing, motions in support of Moughni were filed by Steinberg and Paul Alan Levy of the Public Citizen Litigation Group of Washington, D.C., and Kiousis filed the brief on behalf of class-action members.
Steinberg said Levy, who was not at Friday’s hearing, is planning to attend Tuesday’s hearing. They are arguing that Moughni’s First Amendment rights of free speech were violated by Macdonald’s Feb. 7 ruling.
Friday’s hearing started with verbal sparring between two attorneys. Kiousis said he was “distraught” Dakhlallah talked to at least one of the class-action members he’s representing without his knowledge; Dakhlallah said he was unaware that Imam Husham Al-Husainy of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center in Dearborn was on the list because Al-Husainy was listed under a different name on Kiousis’ list. Kiousis learned of the conversation Thursday evening, and said Dakhlallah asked Al-Husainy about him.
Dakhlallah told Macdonald he won’t talk to Al-Husainy about the matter again. He took a verbal jab at Kiousis after the hearing, saying he should have talked with him about the tampering claim before the hearing.
Dakhlallah said during the hearing he has been talking to leaders of the area’s Islamic community about the settlement and to undo damage done by Moughni’s Facebook campaign, and added, “I did nothing wrong, nothing unethical.”
Thomas McNeill, attorney for McDonald’s Corp., said he left the Feb. 22 hearing confused about “who these people are” on the settlement list.
“It’s troubling,” he added.
Macdonald asked if anyone in the gallery should be put on the class-action list; Laura Roseboro said she should be. Even though she’s Christian, she said she works in Dearborn, has many Muslim friends and eats halal food as part of adopting their ways. She was told to speak with the attorneys after the hearing.