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May 2008
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dogemperor [userpic]
Update on the PP dommie-embroiled controversy *EDITED* (New info)

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]amethyst_hunter)

I knew this was coming: Anti-choice extremists PLAL to sue PP and spokesman Steve Trombley for alleged "libel."

Planned Parenthood opponents to file lawsuit

September 25, 2007
By ANDRE SALLES and Kristen Zambo Staff Writers

AURORA -- Opponents of a new women's health facility in Aurora say they plan to file a lawsuit today, alleging that Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area President and CEO Steve Trombley has libeled them on several occasions in the past month.

The suit, expected to be filed in Kane County, will specifically reference a letter Trombley wrote to all Aurora aldermen on Sept. 4, and several full-page newspaper ads Planned Parenthood has taken out to drum up support for its new facility.

In the ads, Trombley explains why Planned Parenthood used a subsidiary name, Gemini Office Development, to gain approval for its new building on East New York Street -- to "protect the privacy and safety of vendors working on our project and our future clients."

Trombley lays out a case against Joe Scheidler, who was sued in the 1980s for allegedly orchestrating acts of violence against facilities where abortions were performed, and against doctors and clients at those facilities. That case, commonly called NOW vs. Scheidler, was in court for more than 20 years, and was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court three times.

Scheidler's son, Eric, is the communications director for the Pro-Life Action League, and has been at the forefront of the Aurora protests.

'An outrageous libel'

Attorney Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society represents both Joe and Eric Scheidler and their anti-abortion groups in this complaint. Brejcha said that Trombley has accused his clients of orchestrating violent acts that were never proven in court, and said that to accuse the Aurora protesters of violent intentions is ridiculous.

"It's outrageous libel," he said. "They're a bunch of Rosary-praying Catholics holding a 40-day prayer vigil."

Brejcha said he is seeking damages of at least $7.5 million.

((Which is, incidentally, roughly about how much it COST to build the PP in Aurora.))

The crux of the case appears to be the Supreme Court rulings in NOW vs. Scheidler, in 2003, 2005 and 2006. The Supreme Court overturned extortion convictions against Scheidler under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) handed down by a federal jury in Chicago in 1998, and an appeals court in 2000.

Interpretations of ruling

Two of the lawyers involved, Brejcha and NOW-associated lawyer Fay Clayton, disagree on just what the court ruled. Brejcha said that the court overturned everything, including the jury's findings on 121 "acts or threats of force or violence" allegedly orchestrated by Joe Scheidler.

But Clayton said that the Supreme Court justices never argued that Scheidler didn't commit the acts in question, but only overturned extortion convictions under RICO and other federal laws. And saying so, she said, is not libelous.

"Just because they said they didn't violate RICO doesn't mean they didn't commit the acts," she said. "They never faulted the jury for finding that."

Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area officials said that they have heard rumblings of an impending lawsuit, but have not been served as of yet.

Other lawsuits

This new suit is not the only one on this issue working its way through the court system.

Eric Scheidler and the two organizations he represents, the Pro-Life Action League and Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood, sued the city of Aurora last month, alleging that the city violated the First Amendment rights of anti-abortion protesters during their first weeks outside the new clinic.

A status hearing is set for 9 a.m. on Oct. 23, during which a federal judge will ask if a settlement is possible. If not, she plans to ask how long it would take to bring the case to trial.

Another federal judge has denied Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area's request for an emergency injunction to allow it to open. That judge, Charles R. Norgle, left the door open for Planned Parenthood to refile its suit against the city, but officials said Monday that they did not expect to do so until next week.

The city is refusing to issue a final occupancy permit for the clinic until an investigation into Planned Parenthood's approval process is complete. Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti is reviewing the process, and his office said Monday that the final review might be completed by Friday.

I was informed by [info]dogemperor that this is a classic example of what has come to be legally referred to as a SLAPP:

Strategic Lawsuit(s) Against Public Participation. These groups like to file spurious lawsuits against critics (claiming to be the victims of libel or slander, as PLAL is doing here), not expecting to win in the courts - the purpose is to bankrupt their critics into silence.

In general, the intent is either to sue to the point that a critic is forced to settle out of court, sue them into poverty, sue to remove a rewarded court award (as was such in the case of Laura Schubert), or engage in endless appeals until the opposing party is bankrupted or forced to settle out of court in such a way that they agree not to make statements about the group.

The problem is bad enough that a number of states, like California, have specific laws and rules of the court prohibiting SLAPPs and issuing severe sanctions against groups found to have launched a SLAPP. Illinois has a bill pending in its state legislature that would prohibit SLAPPs.

Aurora is at a critical crossroads right now, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Pro-choice and anti-choice alike have noted that whatever happens in Aurora will set the tone for future protests and happenings regarding women's healthcare (in regards to contraception and abortion). National media have been taking note as well (including a piece in TIME magazine's online edition), and in part that's how PLAL has gotten a lot of anti-choice support: they've been getting contacts and bussed-in people from well out of state locations.

In short: This is a textbook case of extremism geared towards taking away womens' rights, and abusing the US court system to do it.

EDIT: Just found out, straight from the Aurora PP blog itself come these disgusting little tidbits:

One of the publicity whores in the infamous Terri Schiavo case is poking his unwelcome nose into the Aurora PP business too.

For instance, several years ago we tracked down a twelve-year-old girl who was going to have an abortion so that we could talk her out of it. Talking a woman out of having an abortion is not news. But tracking her down by using a private detective is.
Joseph Schiedler, The Director Pro Life Action League, Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion, 1985

They want abortion. It is necessary to their filthy lifestyle. We've got a cesspool instead of morality. If we don't start imposing our morality, we are going to drown in their immorality.

MAN WITH A MISSION JOE SCHEIDLER PULLS NO PUNCHES IN HIS CRUSADE AGAINST ABORTION, interview with Linda Witt, Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1985 Sunday

A Chicago Tribune article in which zealot Joe Scheidler is positively pissing his pants at the thought of going after this and other PP clinics, including one in Austin, Texas and one slated to open in Denver, Colorado - which is also experiencing the same kind of harassment and possibly red tape that Aurora is going through (though perhaps not quite as much, for the time being).