SAN FRANCISCO, California, May 1, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will allow Judge William Orrick to continue presiding over David Daleiden's legal battle with Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation, despite apparent conflicts of interest.
The court rejected a petition from the Thomas More Society, which is representing Daleiden, to have Orrick removed from the case, Thomas More president and chief counsel Tom Brejcha has announced.
“You'll recall that Judge Orrick has close ties to Planned Parenthood and his wife is an outspoken abortion activist,” Brejcha wrote. “This is another frustrating setback for David – especially after just last month the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear our appeal of the ‘gag order’ injunction Judge Orrick hit David with at the request of the National Abortion Federation.”
Thomas More is currently defending Daleiden and his pro-life group, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), against multiple criminal charges and lawsuits stemming from CMP’s series of undercover videos revealing abortion industry officials discussing the sale of organs from aborted babies. California prosecutors have charged Daleiden’s team with multiple felonies related to recording “confidential” communications, while Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation are suing to prevent CMP from releasing further videos.
Orrick has sided with the abortion groups, placing a gag order on future CMP videos. The attorneys general of twenty states have called on the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the public to see the videos, but the court declined to hear the case last month.
Pro-life legal observers note that the Supreme Court has previously been less accepting of such gag orders. They cite precedent that “prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights,” because the First Amendment’s “dominant purpose” was to prevent “governmental suppression of embarrassing information.”
Nevertheless, last September Orrick fined Daleiden and two of his attorneys almost $200,000 for releasing a three-minute compilation of highlights from the restricted footage. The footage included Planned Parenthood of Michigan’s Lisa Harris advising, “Let’s just give them all the violence. It’s a person. It’s killing.”
CMP and Thomas More have challenged Orrick’s impartiality on the grounds that he previously served as a board member for San Francisco’s Good Samaritan Family Resource Center (GSFRC), which lists Planned Parenthood as a “key partnership,” something they say Orrick never disclosed to them. They also cite his wife’s history of supporting pro-abortion articles and pages on Facebook, including her use of an “I stand with Planned Parenthood” profile picture.
“Judge Orrick is part of the Planned Parenthood family,” Daleiden said in December, accusing Orrick and his wife of helping get a Planned Parenthood facility into the GSFRC headquarters. That location is also one of the plaintiffs against Daleiden.
“Basically all of Planned Parenthood's advantages or any victories that they've had so far in the past three-and-a-half years are just based on rigging the system,” he continued. Petitioning to remove Orrick from the case “is our effort to unrig the system.”
Brejcha lamented that the Ninth Circuit’s decision means “it looks like we're going to trial in Judge Orrick's courtroom,” but promised that the Thomas More society would “fight even harder to clear David's name so he can release the videos from his undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood.”
The U.S. Department of Justice opened a federal investigation into Planned Parenthood last December, but has not updated the public on its current status in the last several months.