Court Allows Continued Harassment of Pro-Life Advocates

Federal Court Denies Life Legal Defense Foundation’s Request to Intervene in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss., Oct. 27, 2014 — Life Legal Defense Foundation’s request that pro-life advocates receive injunctive relief from harassment by the City of Jackson, Mississippi Police Department was denied by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi Jackson Division yesterday. Despite hours of supportive testimony and a long and well documented history of police misconduct, Judge Carlton Reeves denied a preliminary injunction prohibiting the city police from further persecution of peaceful pro-life protestors. The injunction was requested to protect the victims of harassment while awaiting a lawsuit on the matter, set to go to trial next spring.

Life Legal Defense Foundation had requested that the court:

  • Declare the Jackson police actions against the pro-life advocates to be unconstitutional
  • Declare the City of Jackson in contempt of a legal consent decree issued in the matter over 6 years ago
  • Prohibit the Jackson police from interfering with lawful pro-life speech on public sidewalks and right-of-ways
  • Prohibit the Jackson police from using threats to suppress constitutionally protected pro-life speech
  • Compensate those pro-life advocates whose civil and Constitutional rights were violated via harassment, even false arrest

The police misconduct testified to in court was directed at pro-life sidewalk counselors outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last remaining abortion facility in Mississippi. A recently-enacted law requiring abortion practitioners to have admitting privileges at a local hospital dictates that the clinic must close, but a federal court has temporarily stayed enforcement of that law.

Life Legal Defense Foundation Senior Staff Counsel Allison Aranda and local counsel Steve Thornton called witness after witness to describe the years of threatening, harassing conduct pro-lifers endured from Jackson police officers. This conduct included issuing numerous citations and threats of arrest for constitutionally protected activity such as leafleting and standing with signs on the public sidewalk outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Despite the denial of this preliminary injunction, the lawsuit, filed in July, will now proceed to the discovery stage.

“We are very concerned about the potential for police mistreatment of our clients as this case awaits its day in court,” explained Life Legal Defense Foundation Executive Director and President Dana Cody, “That is why we sought preliminary relief.” She added, “It is very disappointing that the District Court did not acknowledge that a police department that is already behaving with impunity might perceive this as an opportunity to continue illegal harassment of private citizens exercising their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

Read the original Life Legal Defense Foundation court filing in United States District Court HERE.