Lawyers press for answers in ND 88 case
SOUTH BEND, Indiana, January 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Attorneys for 88 pro-life demonstrators who were arrested on Notre Dame University’s campus in 2009 for protesting President Barack Obama, are filing a new motion to obtain answers they say will shed light on the case.
Attorneys with the Thomas More Society (TMS), a Chicago-based public interest firm, filed a motion this week in St. Joseph County Criminal Court to compel answers from a former Notre Dame official.
TMS attorneys had succeeded in deposing William Kirk, former associate vice president for residential life at the University, about the university’s decision to arrest and prosecute the pro-lifers. However Kirk refused to answer questions which they believe are relevant to their defense of the pro-life protestors who were arrested at the university’s 2009 commencement ceremony.
“We believe that the questions Mr. Kirk has declined to answer are pertinent to the case of the ND 88,” said Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society. “No lawful basis was given for Kirk’s declining to answer specific questions, and no attorney-client privilege or privilege against self-incrimination was invoked.”
Chief Judge Michael Scopelitis will make a decision on the motion, presented by Thomas More Society special counsel Thomas Dixon.
Attorneys are looking for Kirk to answer questions regarding the nature of his employment relationship with Notre Dame University, the reason he was fired from his position, whether his refusal to answer certain specific questions is part of a severance deal with the university, information regarding a university security committee formed before the 2009 commencement, advice he provided to university president Fr. John Jenkins, and whether or not ND 88 protestors received treatment different from other protestors arrested on campus.
“If the prosecution of these courageous pro-lifers must continue, then we believe that the ND 88 deserve answers to these questions,” said Brejcha.
The story of the ND 88 began when pro-life activists peacefully gathered on Notre Dame University’s campus to protest the Catholic institution honoring President Obama, who is an advocate of legal abortion, with an honorary law degree and participation in commencement exercises. The 88 pro-life advocates were arrested, and continue to face trespassing charges with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Although the case is technically out of Notre Dame’s hands, Fr. Jenkins continues to refuse to request the county prosecutor to drop the charges.
Evidence exists to suggest that the treatment of the ND 88 was not consistent with other instances of trespassing. An investigation by the alumni watchdog group Sycamore Trust found that previous incidents involving pro-gay and anti-military protesters were handled much more leniently by the school.
Witnesses also attest that on the day of the 2009 commencement only individuals protesting the president’s presence at the university were arrested, whereas other trespassers demonstrating in support of the president were allowed to walk freely on campus.