By Peter J. Smith

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, September 22, 2010 ( – Attorneys representing the 88 pro-life demonstrators arrested at the University of Notre Dame for protesting President Barack Obama at the 2009 commencement ceremonies, won the right Monday to require a former ND official to testify under oath about the treatment of the pro-life protestors.

In St. Joseph County Circuit Court, Chief Judge Michael Scopelitis ruled that Thomas More Society’s (TMS) special counsel, Tom Dixon, may depose William Kirk, former associate vice president for residential life at the University about the university’s decision to arrest and prosecute the pro-lifers.

“This represents a major victory for the defense, and perhaps even a decisive turning point in this case,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of TMS.

Scopelitis overruled the prosecution’s motion to quash the deposition and said he will pass on any objections arising during Kirk’s testimony, since it will take place at the St. Joseph County Courthouse.

Dixon argued at last week’s hearing that Kirk’s testimony would help shed new light on why Notre Dame arrested and prosecuted the pro-life protesters, but has not done the same to other protestors.

Earlier this year, Kirk was removed from his post with Notre Dame after it became public that Notre Dame has not filed charges against gay rights and anti-ROTC activists who have in the past protested on campus without permission. The same treatment was not extended by Notre Dame to the 88 pro-life demonstrators, who were arrested and charged in May 2009.

Earlier in September, attempted to contact Notre Dame over the circumstances surrounding Kirk’s termination. Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown, however, declined and appeared to indicate that the university had instituted a policy against speaking with LSN.

The Thomas More Society has argued that the ND88 were not criminal trespassers but victims of “viewpoint discrimination,” a violation of the First Amendment. But Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins has repeatedly maintained that all protesters were and are treated equally.

The pro-lifers face up to a $5,000 fine and a year in jail if convicted.

At last week’s hearing, TMS also secured the right of the ND 88 to have their own individual jury trials. The prosecution had sought instead to consolidate the cases, and thus expedite the legal process – a request that was denied by Chief Judge Michael Scopelitis.

The longer the trials continue, the greater the likelihood that Notre Dame exposes itself to negative public relations. TMS says it still hopes that the university will avoid such a drawn out process by requesting the prosecution to drop the charges.

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