The court battle against the Center for Medical Progress and its undercover journalists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt continues, this time with some slightly more positive news. The mixed ruling dropped some — but not all — of the charges against Daleiden and Merritt, who are being dragged through the courts after uncovering Planned Parenthood’s involvement with the alleged sale of aborted baby body parts. The case will go before a jury this fall.
According to Liberty Counsel, the firm representing Merritt, Judge William Orrick ruled that Planned Parenthood lacked “sufficient evidence” for some of the 15 charges filed, including claims of breach of contract, some of its claims for trespass, and for illegal recording in Florida.
“Significantly, the court also ruled that the First Amendment bars Planned Parenthood’s claims for damages alleged to arise from the publication of the undercover videos or the reaction of the public to those videos,” the Liberty Counsel statement said. “This essentially guts Planned Parenthood’s case, as the bulk of its made-up ‘damages’ are alleged to arise from the publication of the videos and from the public’s reaction to them.”
But Planned Parenthood is also accusing Merritt and Daleiden of a Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) charge, which will be part of the jury trial. “Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit is nothing but an attempt to bully and silence the truth about its grisly abortion practice,” Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver said. “The Supreme Court has ruled that RICO cannot be used to silence free speech and that is precisely what Planned Parenthood is seeking to accomplish. Planned Parenthood will not succeed.”
Daleiden, meanwhile, is being represented by the Thomas More Society, who filed a motion last week, asking for the court to quash the search warrant of his home ordered by then-Attorney General Kamala Harris (now a Democratic presidential candidate), and included e-mail exchanges between Planned Parenthood and Harris’s office working together to get the search warrant in order to obtain the unedited videos. “This is not an honest prosecution but rather a political favor to Planned Parenthood,” the motion read. “It appears that the investigative staff had to be coerced into serving a search warrant that they opposed.”
Judge Orrick has previously been criticized for having a conflict of interest. Orrick has ties to the abortion industry, including helping Planned Parenthood open a facility inside the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center (GSFRC) in San Francisco, where Orrick was a board member. His wife has publicly shown her support for Planned Parenthood as well. Despite this, Orrick has not been removed from the case.
The Center for Medical Progress uncovered numerous atrocities at Planned Parenthood, prompting a Department of Justice investigation, while forensic analysis proved that the videos were authentic. But in California, instead of prosecuting Planned Parenthood, officials instead built a case against Daleiden and Merritt, something that has vast repercussions beyond just the pro-life movement. The U.S. Reporters Committee previously filed a “friend of the court” submission siding with Daleiden and Merritt, rightly seeing the charges as an attack on free speech. Undercover investigations are common journalistic tools, and these charges set a dangerous precedent — for the pro-life movement, for free speech, and freedom of the press.
The question, then, is simple: is protecting Planned Parenthood more important than protecting constitutional rights?
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