General Recap & Update (Spring 2009)

Roe v. Planned Parenthood (Ohio)Civil action for damages and injunctive relief filed against PP for performing abortion on fourteen-year-old girl in violation of Ohio law.

Claims on behalf of girl and parents include violation of parental notice and consent statutes, informed consent statute, and law requiring reports in cases of suspected child abuse. PP’s motion to dismiss four of the claims was overruled, and PP unsuccessfully appealed that decision. Plaintiffs proceeded with discovery, seeking redacted records of abortion on other minors. PP objected, but court ruled that records must be produced.

PP appealed that decision to court of appeal, which reversed trial court. Supreme Court granted petition for review. Oral arguments were heard in October, and a decision is expected soon.

Hoye v. Oakland—Federal constitutional challenge to Oakland “Mother May I” ordinance restricting speech outside abortion clinics. Following initial successful challenge, city passed amended ordinance, prompting a second challenge. City’s motion to dismiss denied. Motions for summary judgment scheduled for June.

People v. Hoye (Oakland)—Criminal prosecution arising from municipal “Mother May I” ordinance.

Alabama v. Shaver et al. (Ala.)—Pro-lifers arrested for trespassing on a public sidewalk outside Parker High School in Birmingham, Alabama. Nine activists were jailed overnight without food or water and some were shackled. When one pro-lifer asked the police “Isn’t this public property,” the officer replied “not today it’s not.” In addition, the police unlawfully seized and damaged the group’s van and confiscated their video equipment. Upon their release from custody the group called on the police to return their property, including video of their activities, so they could prove their innocence. the police returned the van and the video equipment and apologized for their misconduct.

As of this writing, no formal charges have been filed against the activists.

Logsdon v. Hains (Ohio)—Federal civil rights lawsuit for damages filed against two Cincinnati police officers for arresting sidewalk counselor at abortion clinic without probable cause. Lower court dismissed based on qualified immunity, but Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that a prudent officer would listen to witnesses on both sides, rather than only listening to clinic employee and telling pro-lifers to tell it to the jury. Defendants’ petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court denied. Case remanded for further proceedings in trial court. Discovery is proceeding.

Moreno v. Los Gatos(Calif.)—Pro-lifers arrested for picketing and distributing literature on public sidewalk outside high school. Police told them they had to stay 1,000 feet from the school. No charges filed. Complaint for civil rights violation filed. Town agreed to permanent injunction and payment of attorney fees. Appeal filed re dismissal of state law causes of action. Victory! Ninth Circuit ruled that Plaintiffs are also entitled to statutory damages under state law. Case settled for monetary damages and attorney fees.

Fairbanks v. Planned Parenthood (Ohio)—Lawsuit filed alleging that PP violated Ohio law by their failure to report the sexual abuse of minors. The suit alleges that Fairbanks was brought to PP by her father, who had been sexually assaulting her since she was thirteen. He sought an abortion for his daughter at PP to cover up the sexual abuse and resulting pregnancy. Although minor attempted to tell PP personnel of abuse, they ignored her and failed to report, allowing abuse to continue.

People v. Weimer (Jackson, Miss.)—Pro-life picketer convicted of local sign ordinance violation. Appeal pending.

People v. Lord, et al.(Calif.)—Pro-lifers arrested for trespassing because they failed to comply with Columbia College’s unconstitutional permit requirement requiring 15-day advance registration. Once the prosecution realized that the pro-lifers had a right to be on campus and exercise their free speech rights, they quickly changed the allegations against the group, instead accusing them of causing a disturbance on a college campus. Victory! All defendants acquitted in jury trial. (See ‘Survivors on Trial’, p. 7).

St. John Church in the Wilderness v. Scott (Colo.)—Pro-lifers who picket church with abortion ties enjoined from demonstrating on all sidewalks in the vicinity of the church, because signs upset churchgoers. LLDF filed amicus brief in support of pro per defendants appeal and, at the request of the appellate court, presented oral arguments.

Appellate court remanded case for further findings.

Aurora, Illinois—Multi-pronged attack on Planned Parenthood for lying its way to open an abortion “Mega-Mill” in Aurora, the fastest-growing city in Illinois. Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, recently wrote her supporters that Aurora now represents “‘Ground Zero’ in the national fight to protect reproductive freedom.” Three different lawsuits attack Planned Parenthood and compliant city officials for defamation, fraud, violation of municipal zoning regulations, and civil rights violations. Court allowed two counts of defamation claim to proceed, while dismissing four other counts. These counts are now the subject of an interlocutory appeal. City and PP have filed motion to dismiss zoning challenge for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Hearing scheduled for April 24.

People v. Hunt (Asheville, North Carolina)—Pro-lifers arrested at A-B Tech College for not complying with unconstitutional permit requirement. Appeal filed following trial court conviction.

Roethisberger v. Gwinnet County Georgia—Driver of Truth Truck arrested and jailed. Charges dismissed. Civil suit pending. Victory! Monetary settlement for violation of First Amendment rights.

Vivian Skovgard v. Pedro (Ohio)—Civil action arising from unlawful arrests for trespass of two sidewalk counselors standing in the public right-of-way. Discovery proceeding. Trial set for January 2010.

People v. Joanne Cox (Colorado)—Sidewalk counselor charged with two incidents of violating Bubble Zone ordinance. Discovery reveals that, in at least one incident, the “victims” were Planned Parenthood employees posing as patients. Trial court judge recused himself because he had represented abortionist Warren Hern, and his wife worked for Planned Parenthood. Charges in one incident dismissed, but jury convicted on second charge.

Blythe v. Cypress College  (Calif.)—Pro-lifers arrested for trespassing on a public college campus for allegedly refusing to leave property not open to the general public.

The prosecution dismissed all charges and the judge found the pro-lifers “factually innocent” and ordered that all record of the arrests be removed from their criminal records. Lawsuit filed against college and police department for false arrest and civil rights violations. All parties are engaged in discovery. Trial date has been set for May 11, 2009.

Loebker v. John Doe (Ohio)—Long-time picketer’s signs were intentionally run over by angry motorist. Suit for damages. Victory! Case settled for damages.

Condit v. John Doe (Ohio)—Pro-abortion driver attempt to run over picketer. Lawsuit filed. “Doe” has been identified and named as defendant. Discovery is proceeding.

In Re Rivera (Fresno)—County assumes conservatorship and immediately begins dehydration and starvation. After 8 days, LLDF intervened on behalf of family member and court ordered restoration of food and water. Family member appointed as temporary and then permanent guardian.

People v. Blythe et al. (Calif.)—Pro-lifers arrested for the third time on the campus of Cypress College for refusing to stand in the “free speech zone” located sufficiently far away from the most traversed areas of campus to make contact with any students virtually impossible. The prosecution dismissed all changes just moments before the trial was set to begin. A third lawsuit has been filed against the college and the police department for false arrest and civil rights violations.

White v. Laguna Beach (Calif.)—Pro-lifer arrested for blocking a public sidewalk in Laguna Beach. Victory! When the criminal case went to trial, the police officer brought photos that proved Mr. White was not blocking any sidewalk and that other members of the public were free to traverse the walkway undeterred. The court found Mr. White not guilty. A civil lawsuit for false arrest and civil rights violations has been filed against the City and the officer who made the unlawful arrest. Discovery is proceeding.

Morr-Fitz v. Blagojevich et al. (Ill.)—Pro-life pharmacists challenge Illinois code which requires pharmacies and pharmacy owners to dispense Plan B and other forms of emergency contraceptives regardless of conscience or religious beliefs. Case dismissed for lack of ripeness. Appealed to Illinois Supreme Court, where LLDF assisted with amicus brief. Victory! Supreme Court reversed, holding that pharmacists’ claims were ripe for adjudication. Case remanded for further proceedings.

Peopla v. Wright (La Plata County, Colo.)—Pro-lifer convicted for alleged assault and trespass during first amendment activity at Planned Parenthood Durango. Sentencing pending.

Conrad v. City of San Bernardino, et al. (Calif.)—Pro-lifers arrested by abortion clinic security guard for trespassing in the public parking lot behind the clinic. All criminal charges were dismissed because the pro-lifers had a right to be on public property and were not interfering with the business. Victory! Case settled with monetary damages and attorneys’ fees, and city is seeking input from attorney re appropriate preventative measures against further police misconduct.

People v. Cox, et al. (Calif.)—Pro-lifer forcibly removed from Chaffey College campus and property unlawfully confiscated for simply walking into the campus police station and asking who made an order telling the Survivors they could only stand in one specific location on campus. When other pro-lifers tried to find out what had happened to their friend, they too were arrested and quickly ushered into a private room where the police covered the windows so no one could see what was happening inside. The police threw one pro-lifer on a table and vigorously frisked him removing everything from his pockets. The police handcuffed the other pro-lifer in a dark bathroom with his hands locked to a metal bar above his head. Two of the boys were held in jail for more than three days before being released on bail. All three now face charges of causing a disturbance on campus, resisting arrest, and eavesdropping. Victory! The appellate court threw out the unlawfully seized property, resulting in the dismissal of six charges.

Trial pending.

People v. Guengerich, et al. (Calif.)—Pro-lifers arrested for causing a campus disturbance at Los Angeles City College. The alleged disturbance consisted of five individuals peacefully holding signs and handing out literature on a public college campus. The event was captured on video and will be used to defend the group against these frivolous charges. A hearing at the L.A. City Attorney’s office is scheduled for March 11, 2009 to determine whether or not formal charges will be filed against the group of activists.

People v. Colantuono, et al. (Calif.)—Pro-lifers arrested for trespassing on a public college campus. College of Alameda administrators told the police that they did not approve of the Survivors signs and literature and therefore they wanted the group removed from the campus. Three activists spent twelve hours in jail before being released. Victory! When the case arrived at the desk of the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, the case was rejected and no formal charges were filed.

People v. Wiechec (Denver)—Pro-lifer arrested for disrupting a lawful assembly by protesting at a rally opposing the Colorado Personhood amendment held on steps of state capitol. Victory! Charges dismissed after pro-abort governor subpoenaed to testify about unconstitutional application of the law against pro-lifers but not against pro-abortionists.