LIBERTY ALERTS, LIBERTY COUNSEL
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A federal court in San Francisco has issued a mixed ruling by dismissing some of Planned Parenthood’s claims in the multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit against citizen journalist Sandra Merritt. The court sided with Planned Parenthood’s claim regarding alleged “trespass” at a Texas abortion facility. Planned Parenthood’s remaining claims will proceed to trial. The trial is scheduled to begin on September 30, 2019 in San Francisco and is expected to last between four and six weeks.
In a 137-page ruling on the parties’ motions for summary judgment, Judge William H. Orrick concluded that Planned Parenthood lacks sufficient evidence to take several of its 15 counts against Merritt to trial. These include the abortion organization’s claims for breach of contract, some of its claims for trespass, and its claims for 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. 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.
Although it dismissed several of Planned Parenthood’s trespass claims against Merritt, as to two trespass claims arising out of undercover investigations at Planned Parenthood facilities in Houston and Denver, the court concluded that Merritt and others are liable for trespassing as a matter of law, leaving for the jury the question of whether the alleged trespass caused any recoverable damages. This ruling is seriously flawed, because as a matter of law Merritt and other investigators could not be liable for trespass, since they were invited onto the various properties by Planned Parenthood. Merritt will appeal this unjust ruling, if any damages are awarded at trial.
The court denied the motions for summary judgment filed by Merritt and other defendants as to several of Planned Parenthood’s other claims, including claims brought under the “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” (RICO) law that the abortion organization used as a weapon to stop the undercover videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress that exposed Planned Parenthood’s gruesome trade in baby body parts. The court concluded that these claims will have to be decided by a jury at the upcoming trial.
Liberty Counsel represents Merritt and has presented evidence that Planned Parenthood has no standing, no damages, and no legal basis for the suit.
Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel Mat Staver said, “Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit is nothing but an attempt to bully and silence the truth about its grisly abortion practice. 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.”
Used with the permission of Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.