Why One Judge Is Still Presiding Over a Planned Parenthood Case

Pro-life movement has its work cut out for it when it comes to 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco

by Elizabeth M. Economou | Updated 14 May 2018 at 4:02 PM

The 9th Circuit — the largest court in the country and based in ultra-liberal San Francisco — is allowing Judge William H. Orrick III (shown above) to continue presiding over pro-life activist David Daleiden’s legal battle with Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation despite the judge’s personal ties to the abortion industry.

Daleiden founded The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an Irvine, California-based group of citizen journalists who monitor and report on medical ethics and advances. CMP shot to prominence (or notoriety, depending on one’s perspective) in 2015, after producing a series of undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s possible involvement in illegal fetal-tissue trafficking.

The 9th Circuit Court recently rejected a petition from the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based nonprofit firm, to remove Orrick from the case. The firm is representing Daleiden in his legal scuffles against the abortion giant and the National Abortion Federation, and continues to defend him and CMP against criminal charges and lawsuits stemming from videos that reveal abortion industry officials’ discussing the sale of organ parts from aborted babies.

“You’ll recall that Judge Orrick has close ties to Planned Parenthood, and his wife is an outspoken abortion activist,” announced Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of Thomas More Society, on the firm’s website. “This is another frustrating setback for David — especially after … the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear our appeal of the ‘gag order’ injunction Judge Orrick hit David with at the request of the National Abortion Federation.”

Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation are currently suing to prevent CMP from releasing more videos.

Still, "the trial must go on," declared Peter Breen, special counsel at the Thomas More Society, on the firm's website. "The lawsuits in question pit undercover journalist Daleiden against Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. The request to block Judge Orrick from presiding over these Northern District of California District Court lawsuits stems from his 
well-publicized support of Planned Parenthood."

Breen also cited Judge Orrick's "ongoing and longstanding professional relationship" with a Planned Parenthood partner and affiliate, Good Samaritan Family Resource Center; Judge Orrick served as secretary and counsel.

"This ruling was certainly disappointing, but we've learned that in any litigation over abortion issues, the pro-life side has to learn to take a punch and, on occasion, even get up and keep fighting over a knockdown," Thomas Brejcha told LifeZette. "So, while we're disappointed, we are confident as ever that David Daleiden, the Center for Medical Progress, Sandra Merritt [another pro-life activist with CMP], and other pro-life defendants are in the right — and we remain committed to see this through to the end."

As for next steps, it gets murky, with "many interrelated cases and other pending matters of great relevance," noted Brejcha, "including the ongoing criminal investigation of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and baby body-parts brokers on the part of the FBI and Justice Department."

Multiple appeals are pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to Brejcha, such as:

  • "Whether our anti-SLAPP motion [charging that claims based on California state law were legally baseless, and brought in retaliation for the pro-lifers' critique of the abortionists and body-parts brokers in the exercise of their First Amendment rights] was improperly dismissed."
  • "Whether our clients and criminal co-counsel were illegally fined for contempt of court."
  • "Whether the federal judge in Seattle erred in ordering excessive redaction of records relating to baby body-parts transactions involving the University of Washington, which David Daleiden had requested pursuant to Washington's broad public records access law."

Brejcha and his firm appear to be in the battle for the long haul.

"All these legal proceedings are burdensome and costly, but they present repeated opportunities to poke big holes in both the civil and criminal cases brought at the behest of the abortion industry and its political allies," Brejcha noted.

Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.

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  3. abortion
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