Ask the Attorney: An Interview with Brian Chavez-Ochoa

Brian, could you tell me about your background and your education?

I went to Lincoln Law School in Sacramento for four years at night. During the day I was working as a safety manager overseeing sixteen fire departments in northern California. I had quit high school because I was bored, and never received a B.A. although I had over 180 credits from the University of Washington. The California Bar allows people to enter law school if they have sixty credits of undergraduate work. My wife and I were married when we were seventeen, and by the time we were nineteen we had two children, so I thought it was more important to work. Now we have six children and six grandchildren.

What kind of law do you do in addition to your pro-life work?

Primarily family law and criminal defense in Valley Springs, California—of course we also do a lot of religious freedom work pro bono. I am general counsel for Operation Rescue West, and also associated with the Alliance Defense Fund. I have heard about you that you are someone who doesn’t say no when asked for pro-life help. This isn’t my practice—it’s the Lord’s practice—it’s by His grace that I am even practicing and He has orchestrated my work. The first pro-life case I did was in Washington D.C. against the Justice Department.My two clients were from southern California and from there it has blossomed into numerous other cases. I have taken on the Supreme Court three or four times in both civil and criminal cases, specifically challenging Regulation Six, which regulates the size of signs that people can carry outside of the United States Supreme Court. I argued a case in August in Wichita, in which the city had refused a parade permit to pro-life people protesting partial birth abortion. Over a thousand people from various parts of the country had come to Wichita, and the city was afraid that their demonstrating would injure business in the area. The federal court judge agreed that ther city had violated their first amendment rights and granted the parade permit. I also represented a client in San Diego against Planned Parenthood. I had not been involved in the early stages of the case, and the appellate court had already affirmed many issues in a manner unfavorable to the pro-life side, it was largely a matter of damage control. I was able to protect my client from damages.

So a lot of your work has to do with people exercising their constitutional rights.

Yes—not only their right to picket but a lot of first amendment speech issues and right to assemble issues. We take on cases at the prodding of the Lord—He tells us which ones to take on and which ones not to—quite frankly there haven’t been many that we haven’t taken on! It’s been a tremendous thing for a boy from a town of 500 to go to Washington D.C. to argue on behalf of life!

You mentioned that you are general counsel for Operation Rescue West.

What has happened to them? We don’t hear as much about them these days. They are still active. They were active in Wichita and in Washington D.C., making their views known and exercising their constitutional rights. They are active also on stem cell research. Stem cell research is still in the developmental stage; it has been going on out here for awhile. President Bush has stopped federal funding on all but existing lines, but it is pretty well recognized that these will be insufficient. Also, stem cell research which is privately funded by private investors and corporations is not affected by the new law. Embryos harvested from abortions are sold to these groups.

You mentioned the Alliance Defense Fund. What is that?

It’s a group of attorneys started by people from Focus on the Family. They are based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and do pro bono work in defense of Christian values, especially defending people’s first amendment rights.

How about your connection with Life Legal Defense Foundation?

That began with my first pro-life case in Washington D.C., United States vs. Alaw. Life Legal Defense Foundation paid my travel and other expenses.We travel a lot, both to the east coast and to southern California.

Do you have any good words for people who becoming discouraged about pro-life activity?

Pro-life has always been the step-child of the legal system, the movement that got kicked around by the courts.We’ve seen, with several victories that the Lord has blessed us with, that the Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ is moving across the country, giving the judges eyes to see and ears to hear. It has been OK to violate the constitutional rights of people who were pro-life, but I think we are beginning to see a change in that. Abortion is not seen as favorably as it once was. I think people are starting to realize that whether it’s at conception or ten weeks old or nine months old you’re talking about a child. So I think for people who are coming into the pro-life movement that this will be one of the most exciting times.

A lot of restrictions have been placed on the pro-life movement but that has just forced people to think of other ways to get the message out. Those ways may be more productive: the signs, the counseling efforts, the leafleting, the truth trucks. Blocking the doors of the clinics was symbolic of pro-life people laying down their lives for the life of the unborn; it was important, but I don’t think it won much favor with the public at large because they thought it was fanatical. Rescuers were portrayed as violent. Satan is a counterfeiter. He takes what is good and tries to portray it as what is bad.

Now instead of blockading a clinic or chaining themselves to a door, people have had to find other ways to convey the Lord’s message. Of course this has to be done in a peaceful way. In my mind there is no justification for any violence whatsoever. We are examples of the life of Jesus Christ. When the apostles asked Jesus whether he wanted them to call down fire from heaven, Jesus rebuked them and said, “You don’t know what spirit you are of.” The Lord’s way is that of love and reconciliation.