Monday September 20, 2010

Notre Dame Protesters Win Right to Individual Jury Trials

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, September 20, 2010 ( – The 88 pro-lifers (known as the ND88) who were arrested on the campus of the University of Notre Dame last year during President Obama’s controversial visit have won the right to have their own individual jury trials, thanks to the efforts of the Thomas More Society. 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.

According to the TMS, the longer the trials continue, the greater the likelihood that Notre Dame exposes itself to negative public relations. The Christian legal society, which is representing the ND88, says it still hopes that the university will avoid such a drawn out process by requesting the prosecution to drop the charges.

“We remain hopeful that Notre Dame will bring these ill-starred criminal misdemeanor proceedings to an early end,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. “The longer Notre Dame presses these ND88 prosecutions, the more estranged the University will become from the pro-life movement.”

In St. Joseph County Circuit Court last Thursday, TMS special counsel Tom Dixon also beat back efforts by the county prosecutor to force all defendants to return to the town one week prior to their trials – a journey that for some would have involved considerable difficulty and expense. Judge Scopelitis’ court denied the prosecution’s request “in the interest of justice.”

Scopelitis also ruled for the defense in holding that the prosecution must turn over documents related to a woman arrested – but not prosecuted – for holding a pro-life sign on Commencement Day, even as many others around her holding pro-Obama signs were not arrested.

The judge said he would also consider whether TMS attorneys will be able to depose Bill Kirk, Notre Dame’s former vice president of residential life, who was in charge of campus security.

Earlier this year, Kirk was removed from his post with the University after it became public that, as recently as January 2010, 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.

TMS contends that Kirk’s testimony could shed light on what prompted the University’s different treatment of pro-life protesters, and help prove that the ND88 were victims of “viewpoint discrimination.” That alone would violate the First Amendment, as campus police who made the arrests were exercising statutory authority vested in them by state law.

Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins has repeatedly maintained that all protesters were and are treated equally.

More information can be found at

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Notre Dame Prez Accuses ND 88 of Threatening Peace and Order on Campus

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