Life Legal attorneys filed our reply brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week, asking the court to reverse a $2.4 million judgment against the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and other pro-life defendants.
Planned Parenthood sued CMP and its Board of Directors, as well as David Daleiden, Sandra Merritt, and other investigative journalists, after they gained entry to abortion clinics and abortion industry conferences and published videos showing PP executives negotiating the sale of aborted baby body parts.
In 2019, a San Francisco jury found the pro-lifers jointly liable on claims for fraud, trespass, racketeering, and unlawful recording. Following the jury verdict, U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick, awarded PP nearly $14 million in attorney fees.
Life Legal’s brief, filed on behalf of former CMP board member Albin Rhomberg, argues that Judge Orrick erred throughout the lawsuit and trial, including admitting prejudicial evidence and mistakenly instructing the jury on matters of law, leading to a manifestly unjust verdict.
The most significant error was allowing the jury to award “damages” to PP for the costs of upgrading its security protocols. Following CMP’s successful infiltration of its conferences, PP spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on security consultants to prevent a possible future recurrence. Contrary to well-established law, Judge Orrick ruled that these costs should be paid by the pro-life defendants.
The court also improperly allowed testimony by David Cohen, a self-described feminist law professor and expert in “anti-abortion terrorism.” He works closely with the Women’s Law Project, a group of extremist pro-aborts that recently published a defamatory paper vilifying pregnancy resource centers.
Cohen’s highly prejudicial testimony bolstered Planned Parenthood’s argument that expensive security upgrades were necessary after the release of the videos, which inclined the jury to award not only the costs of those upgrades, but also hefty punitive damages against the pro-lifers.
We further argue that the court erred in determining that Daleiden, Merritt, and the other defendants had trespassed on PP property. The fact is, Planned Parenthood staff invited Daleiden and Merritt to enter its abortion facilities and in some cases view the rooms where body parts of aborted babies were harvested.
Planned Parenthood insists that it never profited from the sale of baby body parts, but documents unsealed show that a single PP affiliate charged almost $25,000 over the course of two months for maternal blood and usable “products of conception,” a euphemism for body parts ripped apart during abortion.
If the Ninth Circuit reverses the jury’s verdict, the exorbitant attorney fee award will likewise fail.