Life Legal attorneys appeared in federal court today in Planned Parenthood v. CMP to argue on behalf of investigators who exposed Planned Parenthood’s unlawful trafficking of baby body parts.
Federal District Court Judge William Orrick heard nine motions brought by the pro-life defendants, represented by Life Legal and other legal groups, and one motion brought by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the nine Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit contains fifteen claims, including racketeering, breach of contract, illegal recording, and invasion of privacy. PP alleges that the claims arise from the acts of undercover investigators, including attending abortion industry conferences and arranging meetings with abortion providers under assumed names. PP’s purported damages, on the other hand, all stem from the publication of the devastating videos showing Planned Parenthood doctors casually discussing the sale of tissue and organs from aborted babies.
Prior to today’s hearing, Judge Orrick issued a tentative ruling holding that Planned Parenthood will not be permitted to recover for damages caused by third parties in response to the videos, but only for those damages directly connected to the investigators gaining access to Planned Parenthood facilities and abortionists’ secret conventions. Judge Orrick noted that the First Amendment bars recovery for acts by third parties, as this would serve to suppress constitutionally-permitted speech.
Planned Parenthood claims that it had to spend millions of dollars to implement security updates due to threats and harassment arising from the release of the videos. After extensive discovery, however, Life Legal learned that none of the threats PP alleges had anything to do with the videos and the alleged harassment consisted largely of non-threatening letters and phone calls opposed to abortion. Some of the letters merely said, “Jesus loves you,” or “our church is praying for you.”
With a three-week trial scheduled to begin on September 30, both Planned Parenthood and the pro-life investigators filed motions for summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss some or all of the issues based on undisputed facts established through discovery and depositions.
Planned Parenthood has made virtually no effort to connect the acts of David Daleiden, Susan Merritt, or the other investigators to its claimed need to hire extra security guards, install fences, and upgrade security and computer systems. They pointed to the testimony of David Cohen, an alleged “expert in anti-abortion terrorism,” who claimed that “the history of the anti-abortion movement and its association with threats, harassment and violence directed at abortion providers made everything that happened after the video release ‘an entirely predictable outcome.’” Cohen is an attorney who has represented PP in other cases and refused to answer certain questions in deposition in the CMP case because of attorney-client privilege. Judge Orrick indicated that he may not permit Cohen to serve as an expert witness.
Life Legal VP of Legal Affairs Katie Short argued that, although Planned Parenthood continues to repeat the lie that the undercover investigation led to a “spike in attacks,” it has failed to produce even a shred of evidence of such attacks.
If Judge Orrick is true to his word, he should rule for Life Legal and the pro-life defendants on some of the most critical claims in the lawsuit, including the racketeering charges, which would allow Planned Parenthood to recover triple the amount of actual damages, along with attorney fees. Judge Orrick said it would “take a little while” to get the final order out.