July 18, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — In a big victory for the First Amendment freedoms of citizen journalists on Wednesday evening, a federal judge in San Francisco indicated his intent to decisively cut back Planned Parenthood's retaliatory lawsuit against The Center for Medical Progress for the undercover videos documenting Planned Parenthood's sale of aborted fetal body parts.
In his tentative ruling, which he instructed the parties to treat as if it were substantially final, Judge William Orrick III rejected Planned Parenthood's false and long-running smear that accused CMP citizen journalists, including David Daleiden, of attempting to incite “threats” and “violence” by publishing the undercover videos, instead of simply publishing a true news story of public interest.
Judge Orrick wrote he was “inclined to exclude from the case all damages that stem from third parties' reactions to the release of the video recordings as impermissible damages barred by the First Amendment absent a defamation claim.” Judge Orrick left in place only “damages for investigating intrusions” into Planned Parenthood's space, and “improvements to access-security measures for conferences and facilities,” as well as nominal and statutory damages.
The ruling significantly downsizes Planned Parenthood's lawsuit, reducing potentially over $20 million at issue to less than $100,000. Most importantly, the ruling affirms that citizen journalists exercising their First Amendment rights to speak and publish cannot be held liable for any bad actions taken by others in the free marketplace of ideas, absent a clear showing of defamation or intent to incite imminent lawless action. Planned Parenthood could provide no evidence or testimony in the case to back up either accusation, and so a lawsuit that was once an avalanche of charges has been reduced to essentially a trespassing dispute.
Judge Orrick previously faced scrutiny presiding over the case because of his history founding, promoting, and donating to a Planned Parenthood clinic in San Francisco run by Plaintiff Planned Parenthood Northern California.
David Daleiden, CMP founder and project lead, notes, “Now that all the facts, evidence, and testimony are in, even Planned Parenthood's favorite judge refuses to buy into the abortion giant's fake news and lies about the honest motives and protected speech of pro-life citizen journalists. Planned Parenthood is a government-sponsored crime syndicate selling baby body parts like widgets on an assembly line and should only appear in federal court as a criminal defendant.”
The case is Planned Parenthood Federation of America et al vs. The Center for Medical Progress et al (3:16-cv-00236-WHO), and is scheduled to go to trial on the reduced damages claims beginning September 30. The Center for Medical Progress is represented by Harmeet Dhillon of Dhillon Law Group and Charles Limandri of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF). David Daleiden is represented by Dhillon, FCDF, and The Thomas More Society.