WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA, March 15, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Although a federal judge dismissed the case and hinted the Justice Department had engaged in a conspiracy to harass pro-life leaders, the Justice Department has appealed a lawsuit against Mary Susan Pine.
Attorney General Eric Holder submitted a one-sentence notice of appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.
Pine is head of Faith, Action, Counseling, and Education (FACE), which offers pregnancy tests and post-pregnancy assistance to expectant mothers, among other services. Since 2001, she has counseled outside the Presidential Women’s Center (PWC) in West Palm Beach, Florida.
On November 19, 2009 – the anniversary of her own abortion – Pine offered a driver entering the abortion clinic pro-life literature, which was accepted. The Justice Department claimed that action, which the judge called “innocuous,” was a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
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Last month, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp dismissed the case, ruling the Justice Department had “not provided any evidence” to indicate Pine had violated the law.
“We are certain that they do not have any new evidence,” Harry Mihet, senior litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel, told LifeSiteNews.com. “In fact even if they had new evidence, they would be prohibited from introducing it on appeal.”
Ryskamp said the Obama administration had another motive in prolonging Pine’s courtroom drama: “that is to intimidate and to silence pro-life Americans who would rather not have to defend themselves against their own government, the most powerful government on earth.”
“His thinking is by filing these suits and committing the unlimited resources of the United States government against these good people, that somehow they would back down and give up their right to free speech voluntarily,” Mihet told LifeSiteNews.
He dismissed the charges as “unconstitutional, groundless claims manufactured by abortion clinics to intimidate and silence pro-life Americans” in a general press release earlier on Thursday.
If granted, Eric Holder’s case would “violate Ms. Pine’s right to free speech,” Ryskamp ruled. “The Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place.”
His decision questioned whether the Obama administration’s Justice Department colluded with abortion providers to prosecute pro-life activists.
The judge found it odd the government met with officials at PWC the very next day and that it “failed to make any efforts to obtain the identities of the passengers who are the alleged victims in this case.” Because of DOJ inaction, the clinic destroyed its surveillance video of the incident.
“The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and the PWC, which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct. If this is the case, the Court would be inclined to sanction the Government with, at a minimum, an adverse inference. Given the absence of further evidence substantiating the Court’s suspicions, the Court is not authorized to do so.”
“It’ not everyday that a federal judge accuses the Justice Department of a full-blown conspiracy,” Mihet told LifeSiteNews.com, and yet “it did not make the six o’clock news. This type of aggression against pro-life people needs to be brought to light.”
The Pine appeal is part of a larger Justice Department crackdown on pro-life activists, represented by a dramatic increase in FACE cases.
Mihet told LifeSiteNews the government’s egregious behavior led him to petition that the Justice Department award Pines $140,000 in attorney’s fees.
“It remains to be seen how much of a deterrent that is against Mr. Holder, because ultimately it’s not him personally who is on the hook for the attorney’s fees that he causes with his unconstitutional actions,” Mihet told LifeSiteNews.com.
“It could be some other mechanism or means of means redress may be necessary to stop him from bringing his lawsuits just because he can.”