Ask the Attorney: Jeanne Normandeau, Esq.

Jeanne Normandeau, Esq., is a sole practitioner in the Inland Empire (Riverside, San Bernardino) area of southern California, where she practices in criminal defense. She was educated at the University of San Diego, where she majored in political science, minored in international relations, and earned a paralegal certificate. She later attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and earned her J.D. She has been practicing law in California since 1991, and has been a volunteer attorney for Life Legal Defense Foundation since 2003. She and her husband are the parents of three children. She enjoys travel and hopes to revisit her favorite place, Tahiti.

What aspect of pro-life work appeals most strongly to you?

My work is more about saving babies, though I am interested in all pro-life issues. Euthanasia bothers me but to me the most important area is abortion. Ever since I was a little kid, my mom and dad instilled within me that abortion is really wrong. Right after Roe v. Wade, when I was nine or ten, my sisters and I went with my parents on a few occasions to hold signs and protest the Supreme Court decision. My parents always talked to us about how wrong it was. We were raised Catholic and all my family still has remained very pro-life over the years.

Have you been involved in pro-life free speech cases?

One of my interests is defending the right to protest abortion. Abortion protesters don’t have the same rights to free speech as others do. Only abortion protesters have special rules and buffer zones. In no other area of free speech are there so many limitations. Speaking out against abortion is just a very unpopular stand to take. Right now I am working with Life Legal on a trespassing case. My clients were doing sidewalk counseling outside a Las Vegas abortion clinic and believed they were on the public sidewalk. Clinic workers called the police and my clients were informed that they were on private property. Because the sidewalk looked like part of the public right-of- way, my clients questioned the police and after some conversation agreed to leave, but said they would do some homework and would return another day if the sidewalk was in fact public property. They had intended to leave until they were asked by the Sergeant on scene to wait to discuss possible guidelines for future visits. After waiting approximately forty minutes, they were cited for trespass. The case is City of Las Vegas v. Mason and Enyart. We will be finishing up with closing arguments in July and the case is being decided by a judge because even though my clients are subjected to possible jail time for this offense, they are not entitled to a jury trial for the offense of trespass in Nevada. I am being assisted in this case by Thomas Larmore, a California and Nevada attorney.

Did a particular experience influence your decision to be more involved in pro-life work?

Two experiences come to mind. One experience involved an expectant father. When I was in the Army JAG Corps working as a legal assistant attorney, a soldier came into my office. He was weeping. I said, “What’s wrong, soldier?” and he said, “Ma’am, my fiancee is pregnant and she is going to get an abortion tomorrow. Is there anything I can do? I want to keep our child.” I said I would see if we could get him some help, but I had to tell him that I didn’t think he had any rights. I spent more time on the phone than I should have, calling offices such as the National Right to Life and other organizations asking what could be done on his behalf. After calling as many sources as I could think of, I finally had to tell him no. We sat there and cried together. All I could think was that this child was created by both the mother and the father, and it was not right that the father had absolutely nothing to say. I vowed at that point that some day I would be involved in right-to-life work. There was one other influence. Shortly after graduating from law school, my aunt, who is also my godmother, announced, “I am so glad that we have an attorney in the family who will fight for the rights of the unborn.” I thought, “What is she talking about? I am going into the Army JAG Corps for three years.” I think it was some type of premonition because she turned out to be right, because here I am using my legal skills fighting for the rights of the unborn and defending those who try to convince mothers not to kill their babies.

How do you get your LLDF cases?

I get a call from Dana Cody, Mary Riley, or Katie Short of Life Legal. The most recent call came about Proposition 71, California’s human embryonic stem cell initiative. I am personally interested in the issue of using humans for embryonic stem cell research because one of my sisters has a “snowflake” baby, a child who was adopted as an embryo. (Snowflake children begin life when infertile couples have several embryos made during in vitro fertilization. Not all couples use all of their embryos. “Extra” embryos can be kept frozen indefinitely, destroyed, donated for research, or donated to another couple who will adopt and have the embryo placed in the woman’s womb in hopes of a successful pregnancy and birth. No two embryos are the same, hence the “snowflake” designation.) My niece’s name is Mary Elizabeth, she had her second birthday on June 15. She met the President of the United States in May when he held a meeting with families who have adopted embryonic children. There were 21 babies at the meeting, including one brand new snowflake infant, the 81st snowflake child. That 81st baby was so cute, and was pictured with President Bush on the front of all the major newspapers. I am interested in anything related to Prop. 71, including a case filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Pre-born Children. I have been assisting Mr. Martin Palmer, the attorney from Maryland that has filed this action in federal court in the Central District in Riverside this past May. My sister, Suzanne and her husband, Peter, (the mother of my niece, Mary Elizabeth) are plaintiffs in that case, which seeks to apply Constitutional protection to human embryos, who are preborn children.

How much pro bono work have you done for LLDF?

I have worked on about four cases for Life Legal, plus doing some other little things, like research. About twenty-five percent of my time goes for Life Legal and other Christian related litigation work.

Why do you volunteer for pro-life cases?

Because they won’t pay me! (Laughs.) Actually, I would love to do this full-time, but paid positions are difficult to come by in this line of work and I can’t afford to send our kids to Catholic school if I don’t work a paying job as well. I love volunteering for Life Legal—my reward is the satisfaction of fighting for the rights of the unborn and to hopefully, make a difference in this area of the law some day.

What would you say to a colleague who was considering volunteering?

I would tell him or her not to be a wimp—to go for it. Many people are afraid of what others will think of them about fighting for a pro-life cause. I am open about my work with Life Legal if it comes up naturally in conversation. If you think it is important to save the life of another person, go for it. Sure, everybody is busy—I am so busy, but it is so important to save the unborn.