Judge Upholds Counts of Libel against Planned Parenthood in Scheidler Case
GENEVA, IL, December 11, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Late yesterday afternoon, Judge Judith Brawka of Kane County Circuit Court upheld two counts of slander and libel, alleged by Eric Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League, in a lawsuit filed in 2007, holding that those counts should not be dismissed as a matter of law.
The court’s decision overruled an objection by defendants, Planned Parenthood of Illinois and its Chief Executive Officer Stephen Trombley, that the alleged defamatory, libelous and slanderous statements were immune from suit under Illinois’ newly enacted Citizen Participation Act.
The counts were based on an open letter which Planned Parenthood placed in the Chicago Daily Herald on September 7, 2007, stating that pro-life activists opposing Planned Parenthood’s new factory-sized abortion facility in Aurora had a history of advocating violent behavior. Stephen Trombley had also made statements to the press in the lobby of the federal courthouse in Chicago to the same effect.
Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League have insisted that they have no history of violent misbehavior nor of advocating violence and that such claims were already rejected in the 22-year-old nationwide federal class-action lawsuit, NOW vs. Scheidler, which they won in the US Supreme Court not once but twice, in 2003 and again in 2006. Planned Parenthood was a member of the class of abortion clinics that participated in that lawsuit, and they lost.
The plaintiffs expect to proceed to litigate the two counts that were sustained all the way to final judgment against Planned Parenthood. As for other counts of their libel case that were dismissed, they intend to appeal Judge Brawka’s ruling against those counts under the Citizen Participation Act as soon as possible. That Act immunizes from suit any efforts to obtain favorable government action, but only if in furtherance of a lawful exercise First Amendment rights. Judge Brakwa on the other hand dismissed several other libel counts on the rationale that even malicious lies were immunized from suit if intended to persuade government officials. This overbroad reading of the Act is what plaintiffs intend to appeal.
Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Society, who is representing the plaintiffs in the litigation, said that yesterday’s ruling is “very welcome and signals that at some point in this case Planned Parenthood is going to have to come to grips with the fact that they lied. Those lies constituted defamatory torts for which Planned Parenthood and Mr. Trombley must be held to account to the plaintiffs, whose good name was illegally trashed for no reason and with malice aforethought.”
“The Citizen Participation Act,” continued Brejcha, “also called the Anti-SLAPP Act, is not a license to lie with impunity and ruin someone’s good name for malicious reasons.”