Today, after 21 years and an unprecedented three hearings before the U.S. Supreme Court, NOW vs. Scheidler was finally settled in a U.S. District Court in Chicago, and NOW may have lost big.
You can read the history of the case here.
This has always been a free speech case. Many liberal activists, including PETA and Martin Sheen, filed amicus briefs in support of Scheidler.
You can read the press release by Scheidler's attorney here, or on page two of this blog.
I just spoke with the attorney, Tom Brejcha, to understand how the tables may have been turned on NOW. Here is how Tom explained today's court decision:
It's a little complicated. It was a class action, which means all the clinics in the country, all the women in the country who are members of NOW, and any women who ever felt intimidated by pro-life people in the country were brought into this case.
NOW sued every pro-life activist organization with a title.
In a way the whole abortion crowd sued the whole pro-life activist movement. Importantly, all the clinics were involved except a few who dropped out. Then-PP president Alan Guttmacher sealed the list of involved clinics.
There's a doctrine in law that when you file a lawsuit, it has to include every claim A brings against B. NOW vs. Scheidler included every event and transaction that ever occurred with an abortion provider from 1984 for as long as the case was pending.
Now we have a final judgment that includes anyone in the pro-life movement who was accused of any wrong doing at or about the premises at an abortion clinic - threats, harrassement, disorderly conduct - if that clinic hasn't dropped out of the case. So this final judgmenet can be brought into oourt to say the case is barred against that pro-lifer, because all claims have been dismissed.
Any lawsuit filed against a pro-lifer since 1984 is potentially dismissable, up to the date of the jdugement.
The point is, NOW said our guys had to answer for anything anybody did in the pro-life movement. But it works both ways. They said on record the co-conspirators were up to one million people.
I am going to put a kit together to send papers to whoever needs it to raise a defense. Mr. and Mrs. Anybody may say that they won this case.
There's a lot of paper you could throw at any prosecutor in the country. Boy, I'm gonna get that paper ready to throw. They wanted to make this thing top down against activism. They asked for it, they got it.
Congratulations to Joe and Ann Scheidler and Tom Brejcha!
[Hat tip: Marathon Pundit]
Judgment Against NOW in National Abortion Class Action Suit
Final Judgment Goes Against NOW in Abortion Class Action Suit -- After 21 Years and Three Supreme Court Decisions
Tables Turned Against Abortion Providers as Pro-Life Groups Have Free Speech Rights Upheld
Contact: Tom Brejcha, Esq, Chief Counsel, Thomas More Society, 312-782-1680, 312-590-3408 cell; Joseph Scheidler, Defendant, Pro-Life Action League, 773-777-2900; Andrew Schadegg, TC Public Relations, 312-422-1333, email@example.com
CHICAGO, May 8 /Christian Newswire/ -- U.S. District Judge David Coar handed down a "final judgment" for pro-life activist defendants in the landmark national class action lawsuit, NOW v. Scheidler. The court's ruling marks the definitive rejection of claims by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the nation's abortion providers against the defendants. The lawsuit claimed the defendants had orchestrated and directed a nationwide protest movement using illegal methods outlawed by the federal antitrust, extortion and "RICO" (racketeering) laws. The defendants included prominent pro-life leaders Joseph Scheidler, Randall Terry, Andrew Scholberg, Timothy Murphy, the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League and Operation Rescue.
The judgment is not only against NOW, but is also against "the members of NOW" and against "the members of the Certified Class of women" whom NOW also represented in the suit. This includes women who are not NOW members, but might use the services of a women's health center anywhere in the United States, as well as the entire "class of women's health centers in the United States at which abortions are performed." Since the case was "certified" as a class action, the judgment could have far reaching implications.
Tom Brejcha, lead counsel for most of the defendants and President of Chicago's Thomas More Society and Pro-Life Law Center explains, "The plaintiffs designed this case as a huge dragnet and they cast it far and wide as if to encompass the entire pro-life activist movement in America. The law of 'res judicata' or 'claim preclusion' varies from state to state, but all pro-life activists who face lawsuits by their local abortion providers may have a defense based on today's final judgment. The judgment bars 'all claims that might have been brought in this case' on behalf of all class member abortion clinics. This is not just federal RICO or antitrust claims, but also state and local trespass or harassment claims of all sorts. As NOW and the other plaintiffs have met a final defeat, the tables are turned against them."
This lawsuit traced an erratic course up and down all three levels of the federal judicial system over the span of two decades, including an apparently unprecedented three full dress hearings before the U.S. Supreme Court. In February 2003, a decisive majority voted 8-1 for the pro-life defendants, ruling that a RICO judgment and nationwide RICO injunction against the defendants and their "co-conspirators," must be overturned. Later, when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals tried to breathe new life into the case, the Supreme Court intervened a third time, ruling last February, 2006, 8-0 that the case should end once and for all. In May of 2006 the Seventh Circuit sent the case back down to Judge Coar for dismissal.
"We are very grateful for all those who helped us with their prayers and support on what has been a long and arduous journey to reach this day," states Brejcha. "We join our clients in celebrating this victory for all those committed to restore the law's protection for all human beings, wanted or 'unwanted', rich or poor, humble or exalted, from the moment of conception through natural death. We salute this victory for robust, peaceable citizen activism and the vigorous exercise of First Amendment rights."
A full timeline of NOW vs. Scheidler is available online at: www.prolifeaction.org/nvs/summary.htm
A complete copy of the judgment is available upon request.