We previously reported on the case of Planet Aid v. City of St. Johns, Michigan, Docket No. 1:14-cv-00149 (W.D. Mich. 2014), in which Planet Aid sued the City of St. Johns over the enactment of an ordinance banning donation bins throughout the City. Prior to the enactment of the ordinance, Planet Aid would sell items it collected through donation bins (clothing, shoes, and textiles) to fund development programs in impoverished communities in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. While Planet Aid awaits a ruling on its motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in that case, it has obtained an ex parte temporary restraining order in a lawsuit against Ypsilanti Township, Michigan – Planet Aid v. Ypsilanti Township, Docket No. 14-cv-11472 (E.D. Mich. 2014) – that it brought after filing suit against St. Johns for a similar donation bin prohibition.
For the past 7 years, Planet Aid has placed 16 donation bins throughout the Township at various sites. According to Planet Aid, all of its bins were “clearly labeled, standalone donation bins” that were placed with the consent of the property owner. Because the Township believed there were too many bins within its borders, its Community Ordinance Officer informed Planet Aid, as well as all bin operators and bin hosts throughout the Township, to remove their bins within 30 days. According to Planet Aid, it was not provided with notice or afforded an opportunity for a hearing. Allegedly, the Township has not provided an explanation for its position and, through counsel, “has been aggressively harassing property owners, advising them [that] they will face civil sanctions should they allow Planet Aid bins on their property.”
In granting Planet Aid’s motion for an ex parte temporary restraining order, the District Court found that Planet Aid was likely to succeed on the merits of its First Amendment free speech claim. Based on the Sixth Circuit’s conclusion that solicitations to pay or contribute money are entitled to First Amendment protection, the District Court found that “this protection extends to donations for goods which will then be converted to donations of money.” Daytona Area Visually Impaired Persons, Inc. v. Fisher 70 F.3d 1474, 1481 (6th Cir. 1995). The Court observed that “the Township’s restriction to ban all of [Planet Aid’s] bin placement in the Township is not narrowly tailored to achieve its interest in that there are likely less restrictive ways to reach Defendant’s goal.” The District Court enjoined and restrained the Township from removing Planet Aid’s donation bins, whether acting alone or in concert with others.
The District Court’s order granting the ex parte temporary restraining order in Planet Aid v. Ypsilanti Township, Docket No. 14-cv-11472 (E.D. Mich. 2014), can be accessed here.