A lawyer for the Satanic Temple in Salem today filed an explanation of why his group wants to make Michelle Wu spend several hours in Salem on Election Day to answer questions about how the City Council invites clergy to open its meetings with an invocation: To make her think about what she's done.
In a letter to US District Court Judge Angel Kelley this morning, attorney Matthew Kezhaya says it's only fitting that a candidate for mayor be asked to explain why the council refuses to invite any Satanists to provide an invocation, which the group claims shows that the council is showing favoritism towards non-Satanic religions, in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment clause. The group sued the council in January; in July, another federal judge narrowed the case to the Establishment issue.
Kelley had ordered the Satanic Temple to explain by 9 a.m. today why it had subpoenaed Wu for a deposition on Nov. 2. Kezhaya elucidated:
I expected, perhaps naively, that a mayoral candidate for a city that holds stewardship over Bunker Hill, Faneuil Hall, and the USS Constitution would have paused to think about what her candidacy means. Maybe it would even result in that precious invite, that public acknowledgment that my client stands on equal footing in the eyes of the law as other religions.
And, if not, I expected that the matter would at least be something the public takes heed of. Perhaps, if not the above, the public may take note of the caliber of Wu’s character: as one who asserts an interest in diversity and inclusion, provided of course that it is politically expedient.
At bottom, my litigation strategy on this matter involved pitting Wu’s and the City’s litigation goals (i.e., concocting a credible lie as to why my client will never receive an invite, but which is also somehow not unconstitutional religious discrimination) against Wu’s personal goals (i.e. winning her mayoral election). My bet was that her self-interest would win out against the litigation, and she would choose to expend her limited time and efforts on her campaign as opposed to internalizing whatever post-hoc justification the City comes up with based on the extrinsic proof.
And he asked who the hell does Wu think she is, claiming she's "a little busy" and unavailable for answering questions on Nov. 2, even if she was being tongue in cheek in her tweet?
No, an ordinary citizen would be expected to offer an alternative date of mutual agreeability.
In yet another filing, Kezhaya claims the group agreed to reschedule its deposition to another day, but that the city then refused and made a claim that Wu, as a public official, is above such things.
Kezhaya did not explain why a similar subpoena was not issued to Annissa Essaibi George, who, like Wu, is also a city councilor currently running for mayor.
In any case, he claimed he did nothing that violates court procedure and that he is only acting in the best interest of his client:
I feel no remorse for the action I took. As an attorney, it is my sworn duty to do anything short of breaking the law to see to it that my client’s goals are recognized. This business of litigation is zero-sum. Everything I do which can benefit my client will cause an equal and opposite effect on the other side. I serve my purpose with all the zealous advocacy which my oath commands. And I expect nothing less from my adversaries.
In a separate letter to Kelley, Kezhaya said he strongly objected to answering the judge's question:
The basis of my objection is the work product privilege. Under the work product privilege, Plaintiff is protected from compelled disclosure of, among other things, its attorneys’ mental impressions and trial strategies. ...
What goes on in my mind and in my discussions with co-counsel to the end of winning this case is sacrosanct.