General Recap & Update of Current Cases — Winter 2018
ZNS (Calif.)—Sixty-eight-year-old woman was admitted to a Los Angeles hospital with heart trouble. Her son, a Catholic priest, is now being strongly pressured to replace her medications with morphine to alleviate her “suffering” and provide her with a “peaceful death.” The patient has told her family and the doctors that she is not suffering and that she does not want her life to be cut short. Life Legal is working with several pro-life physicians to ensure that her condition is properly assessed and that she receives appropriate treatment.
Planned Parenthood v. Daleiden et al. (Calif.)—In January 2016, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and several PP affiliates sued David Daleiden and several of his fellow investigators for the express purpose of punishing them for their investigative work, claiming over $10 million in actual damages, Planned Parenthood is also seeking treble damages for alleged “racketeering” (RICO) as well as punitive damages and attorney fees. The abortion giant is represented by one of the largest law firms in the United States. Daleiden and his co-defendants’ motions to dismiss and anti-SLAPP motions were denied. They have appealed the denial of the anti-SLAPP motions to the Ninth Circuit, and oral arguments were heard on November 17. Discovery on the federal claims is proceeding while the appeal is pending. Daleiden and CMP filed a motion to disqualify Judge William Orrick from hearing the case, citing his ties to Planned Parenthood, but the motion was denied and the decision is on appeal.
NAF v. Daleiden and CMP (Calif.)—National Abortion Federation (NAF) sued Daleiden to prevent release of the recordings and information he obtained at NAF meetings on the grounds that he is a “racketeer” who “committed fraud,” “snuck into” their meetings, “stole” NAF information, and repelled them with his constant questions about buying fetal tissue. In March, the district court’s ruling granting NAF a preliminary injunction was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. Life Legal filed a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. The Court has requested additional briefing on the issues from NAF, which indicates that they may consider the case for review. Meanwhile, NAF was awarded contempt sanctions against CMP and Daleiden based on Daleiden’s criminal defense attorneys’ release of NAF videos to the public. The sanctions will be reversed if the preliminary injunction is found to be invalid by the Supreme Court or on remand to a lower court.
California v. Daleiden et al. (Calif.)—California Attorney General Xavier Becerra charged Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress colleague Sandra Merritt with fourteen counts of eavesdropping and one count of conspiracy to eavesdrop. California’s eavesdropping statute exempts conversations that can be overheard by others. The conversations for which Daleiden and Merritt are being charged occurred either in restaurants or in the exhibit hall at a hotel in the midst of a large conference.
Diss v. Portland Public Schools (Ore.)—Civil complaint for unlawful termination and religious discrimination. Bill Diss, a teacher at a Portland, Oregon high school, had his teaching contract terminated following his request for a religious accommodation to excuse his participation in a school program administered by Planned Parenthood. Following his request for accommodation, Diss was subjected to harassment and retaliation by school administrators throughout the school year, which culminated in the termination of his employment. Life Legal filed employment discrimination complaints with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In September 2014, Life Legal also filed a civil action on Diss’ behalf, seeking monetary damages as well as reinstatement in his teaching position. In November, the district court granted summary judgment against Diss. That ruling is on appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
Planned Parenthood v. MMB Properties (Kissimmee, Fla.)—Planned Parenthood purchased and occupied the property in Kissimmee in April of 2014. When it became clear that the office was going to become an abortion clinic, a cardiology practice which also had an office at Oak Commons sued to enforce the restrictive covenant that forbade “outpatient surgical centers” at the site. Planned Parenthood lost when the Fifth District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida upheld a trial court preliminary ruling that prohibited the abortion giant from running a baby-killing mill at its office in Kissimmee. Planned Parenthood appealed the decision by the Fifth District Court of Appeals to the Florida Supreme Court. Oral arguments heard August 31, 2016. On February 23, the Court dissolved the temporary restraining order, but agreed with the lower court’s construction of the terms of the covenant. The case returns to the trial court for permanent injunction proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion.
Ahn v. Hestrin (Calif.)—Proponents of physician-assisted suicide, unsuccessful for twenty years in passing legislation during regular sessions, took advantage of an abbreviated review process in an extraordinary legislative session, called to address Medi-Cal funding shortfalls to advance their agenda. California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill, making California the fourth state, and by far the largest state, to decriminalize physician-assisted suicide, permitting physicians to prescribe lethal drugs (so-called “aid-in-dying drugs”) to individuals believed to have a terminal disease. Life Legal filed a challenge in June 2016 on behalf of doctors asserting the constitutional rights of their sick and vulnerable patients to the full protection of the law enjoyed by other Californians. On June 16, 2017, Judge Daniel Ottolia denied California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. We are currently in discovery and a trial date has been set for September 2018.
In re Estate of T.L. and In re the Matter of M.H. (Penn. and Wis.)—Two very similar cases in different parts of the country involving women in their thirties who were placed in hospice care to be starved to death only days after suffering temporary lack of oxygen to the brain. Neither woman was married, but each had a fiancé who called Life Legal for help. In both cases, Life Legal attorneys went to court to get the women returned to the hospital to receive nutrition. One was starved for ten days and the other for thirty-four days. Just weeks later, both women started talking and walking, and both are well on their way to a full recovery. MH’s court-appointed guardian continues to seek the involvement of the very family members who sought to put her to death. On May 11, 2017, the judge ruled that MH no longer needed a guardian. She is consulting with attorneys to evaluate a malpractice action against the hospital/hospice.
Two Rivers School v. Darnell et al. (Washington, D.C.)—Pro-life advocates protested the construction of a Planned Parenthood megacenter adjacent to a middle school in Washington, D.C. The school district sued and obtained a preliminary injunction. Life Legal, representing the lead plaintiff in the case, appealed the decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals. The next hearing is scheduled for January 2018.
Passmore v. 21st Century Oncology (Fla.)—Discriminatory termination of two medical employees for taking part in pro-life activities after work hours. Trial back on track after Plaintiffs granted a relief from stay after employer filed for bankruptcy.
Stinson/Fonseca (Calif.)—Life Legal continues our challenge to California’s brain death statute in federal court. The statute does not provide due process for family members who seek a second opinion after their loved one has suffered a serious brain injury. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the parents of Israel Stinson, whose two-year-old son was declared brain dead by a California hospital but was subsequently found to have active brain waves, against the California Department of Public Health and the California Attorney General. Israel Stinson died after being forcibly removed from life support in August, 2016. The hospital and state then sought to have the case dismissed, claiming the toddler’s death rendered the case moot as there were no further damages. Life Legal subsequently sought to be joined as a co-plaintiff. Case is on appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
In re Joe Williams (Calif.)—Case involving the father of two small children who suffered a brain injury in May 2015. Joe’s wife decided in December that she wanted to take him home to die, i.e., without nutrition or hydration. Life Legal was contacted by Joe’s sister (through Bobby Schindler). Tragically, Joe’s condition became unstable due to lack of fluids and he passed away in June 2017. Inexplicably, our opponents want to keep the case alive in order to prevent the family from discussing the case. We are seeking dismissal of the case.
Duran v. Southwestern Women’s Options (New Mex.)—Lawsuit filed against late-term abortion clinic for failure to obtain lawful consent to provide baby parts for research. Congress is also investigating University of New Mexico and the abortion mill for suspected violations of federal law prohibiting the sale of fetal tissue.
Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (Colo.)—The Masterpiece case involves a baker who was asked to create a cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple. The baker, Jack Phillips, said he could not use his artistic talents to give approval to a marriage that violated his religious beliefs. In response, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission said Phillips’ religious beliefs were illegal and prohibited him from designing any wedding cakes, which resulted in the loss of 40% of his business. The Commission imposed draconian reporting requirements on Phillips, forcing him to provide a detailed account of the reasons for any orders he declines. Life Legal filed a brief in support of the baker because this case is likely to have rapid and lasting impact on the rights of medical professionals to practice their professions consistently with their consciences and the teachings of their faiths on issues of life and death—or indeed to practice their professions at all.
Schneider (Ga.)—An abortion clinic escort repeatedly harassed a 40 Days for Life sidewalk advocate. Life Legal is coordinating with local attorneys to obtain a restraining order against the escort.
People v. Monagan (Calif.)—Abortionist called police and had a pro-life advocate arrested as he was talking with women entering the abortion facility.
Kline v. Biles (Kan.)—Former Kansas Attorney General was accused by Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion public officials of violating state ethics rules while investigating Kansas abortion providers, including notorious late-term abortionist George Tiller, as well as others who failed to report cases of child rape. Kline’s license to practice law was suspended indefinitely by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2013—however, five of the seven justices had to recuse themselves because of conflicts. Kline filed a motion in federal court to challenge what he calls a void judgment by an “unlawfully constituted” court. The motion was dismissed and Kline appealed to the Tenth Circuit, which affirmed the lower court’s ruling in July 2017. Kline’s attorneys plan to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
People v. Imbarrato, et al. (Washington, D.C.)—Criminal charges resulting from Red Rose Rescue.
People v. Handy, et al. (Alexandria, Va.)—Criminal charges resulting from Red Rose Rescue.
McKitty v. Hayani (Canada)—Life Legal is assisting in the Canadian case of twenty-seven-year-old Taquisha McKitty, who was declared brain dead in September, but has since been exhibiting movements and responses incompatible with brain failure. We are waiting for the judge’s ruling after a five-day trial that centered on Taquisha’s religious belief that life is not determined solely on the basis of neurological criteria.
National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra (Calif.)—Life Legal filed amicus brief in support of pregnancy resources centers. See article.