Victory: Arizona Federal Court Blocks Anti-Boycott Law

Mikkel Jordahl, the Arizonan who challenged the anti-boycott law with the ACLU. Photo: ACLU.

Mikkel Jordahl, the Arizonan who challenged the anti-boycott law with the ACLU. Photo: ACLU.

A federal court has blocked enforcement of Arizona Revised Statute § 35-393.01, a law that requires companies seeking to enter into contracts with the state to certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel.

The decision came in response to a challenge by Mikkel Jordahl, an attorney with a solo law practice who faced a difficult choice between his personal commitment to boycotts in support of Palestinian freedom and his professional interest in contracting with the state to provide legal services to people incarcerated in Coconino County, Arizona. Represented by the ACLU, Jordahl challenged the law as a violation of his First Amendment right to engage in political boycotts. 

In a ruling on Thursday, September 27, 2018, Federal Judge Diane Humetewa found that Jordahl was likely to succeed in showing that the Arizona law violates his First Amendment rights and that the state’s continued enforcement of the law would cause him irreparable harm.

Noting that Jordahl sought to engage in collective action to promote the “equal human dignity and rights for all people in the Holy Land” and “an end to Israeli settlement building and the occupation of Palestinian land,” the court stated that a law restricting such collective action “specifically implicates the rights of assembly and association that Americans and Arizonans use ‘to bring about political, social, and economic change.’”

The court also found that the history of the Arizona law “suggests that the goal of the Act is to penalize the efforts of those engaged in political boycotts of Israel and those doing business in Israeli-occupied territories because such boycotts are not aligned with the State’s values” and that such a goal is unconstitutional. The court also found that there was “no evidence that Arizona businesses have or are engaged in discriminatory practices against Israel, Israeli entities, or entities that do business with Israel.”

With this ruling, Arizona is blocked from enforcing its anti-boycott law pending final resolution of the case. In a similar case in Kansas, the state amended its anti-boycott law after a federal court blocked enforcement.

“This is the second time a federal court has blocked a law trying to prevent us from engaging in boycotts for Palestinian freedom,” said Palestine Legal director Dima Khalidi. “There are similar laws on the books in at least 25 states, as well as pending federal legislation. These laws all violate the First Amendment, and we expect that more courts will agree as these laws are challenged one by one.” 

Read the decision here