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Published: Sunday, 11/20/2011

Settlement in arrests at funeral is reached

$122,500 to be paid by Michigan county

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT -- A central Michigan county has agreed to pay $122,500 to settle a lawsuit by a couple pulled out of a soldier's funeral procession and arrested in 2007 because signs in their van criticized President George W. Bush, a lawyer said Saturday.

The deal with Clare County was reached two months after a federal judge said a key part of the Michigan law banning funeral protests was vague, broad, and unconstitutional.

Lewis and Jean Lowden were arrested in Harrison, 100 miles north of Lansing. They were close to Army Cpl. Todd Motley, who was killed in Iraq, and were invited to his funeral. Ms. Lowden had been his teacher and Mr. Lowden, a decorated Army veteran, had fished and camped with the soldier.

Sheriff's deputies pulled their van out of the procession after noticing anti-Bush signs in the van's windows. The signs didn't mention the military or Corporal Motley, but deputy Lawrence Kahsin said the van was "kind of suspicious in nature."

The Lowdens spent 24 hours in jail. Charges were dropped.

Court records indicate that Clare County agreed to a deal Monday, although no amount was listed.

Dan Korobkin, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, declined to say how much of the $122,500 settlement would go for legal expenses. Mr. Korobkin helped represent Mr. Lowden and the estate of his wife, Ms. Lowden, who died in 2008.

In September, U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington in Bay City said the Lowdens' First Amendment rights were violated along with the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

"This lawsuit was never about money," Mr. Korobkin said Saturday. "Lewis brought this case to protect the First Amendment. What happened to Lewis and Jean demonstrates the danger of trying to craft special laws targeting unpopular groups or offensive speech. Eventually, those laws backfire and no one is free to express their views."

Michigan's law was adopted in response to members of a Kansas-based group that regularly protests outside the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Korobkin said the state, which defended the law's constitutionality in litigation, already reached a separate $20,000 settlement in the suit.



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