WASHINGTON, D.C., March 19, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The man President Obama has nominated to become the next Secretary of Labor has been accused of filing baseless lawsuits against pro-life protesters in order to chill their right to free speech.
On Monday, Obama named Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, to replace outgoing Secretary Hilda Solis.
Last September Perez boasted, “We have opened 20 civil investigations under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, and filed eight complaints under the Act – compared to just one civil FACE Act case in the eight years of the previous administration.”
But his dogged pursuit of pro-life activists has earned his department a hefty fine – and a federal judge's suspicion he was colluding with abortion providers.
In April, the Justice Department paid Mary Susan Pine $120,000 in lawyers’ fees after wrongly accusing her of violating the 1994 FACE law.
Federal Judge Kenneth Ryskamp pointedly questioned whether the prosecution “was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and the [abortion provider], which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities.” On the merits, he wrote, he was “at a loss” to explain how the case ever came to be prosecuted.
Obama administration officials believe “by filing these suits and committing the unlimited resources of the United States government against these good people, that somehow they would back down and give up their right to free speech voluntarily,” Harry Mihet, senior litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel, told LifeSiteNews.com.
Pro-life blogger Jill Stanek has noted the Justice Department has a poor record on the remaining FACE cases during Perez's tenure, never having won a single conviction.
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Last March, the Justice Department dropped all civil charges against Kenneth Scott, who had been accused of 10 FACE violations outside the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in Denver.
The Justice Department pressed for a $10,000 civil fine and a 25-foot mandatory “buffer zone” outside the abortion facility. “Holder’s theory is that Ken is ‘obstructing’ other traffic when women needing help stop their cars to speak with and receive literature from Ken,” said an official with the Thomas More Society.
The agreement stipulated that Scott could not seek attorney's fees from the DOJ. Scott’s wife Jo Ann, paid $750 each to two women to settle the separate charges against her.
In July 2011, the division filed suit against Dick Retta, now 80, seeking a total of $25,000 in fines. Retta forcefully rejected the allegations, telling NPR, “We don’t block women from coming in. That’s not our policy. I teach it. I teach what I’m doing…and I say one thing: never block the women from going in. Never.” The DOJ settled the case in January in exchange for a promise from Retta not to stand inside an 18.5-foot “buffer zone” outside the facility's gate.
Similarly, the Justice Department charged a Pittsburgh-area activist, 56-year-old Meredith Parente, with shoving two escorts outside Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania. Parente admitted no guilt but signed a settlement on election day 2012, agreeing to stay at least 25 feet away from a Pittsburgh abortion facility. She faced $20,000 in fines.
In some cases, the Justice Department stands accused of prosecuting the victim.
Dana Cody of the Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) said the DOJ slapped David Hamilton with charges after he was assaulted in January 2010 outside the EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
In January, Hamilton settled the case for $2,500 to his “victim.”
Thomas Perez weighed in on the decision, saying, “It is absolutely crucial that those individuals who desire reproductive health services be able to obtain them in an environment that is free of interference, intimidation and fear.”
“By continuing to enforce the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, we are helping to ensure that they are able to do so,” he added.
The appointment of Perez concerns conservative observers for a number of others reasons.
In 2009, Perez testified before the U.S. Senate on behalf of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would allow homosexuals to sue employers if they believed they were not hired because of their sexual orientation.
Rea Carey of the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force praised Perez. “The Labor Department is critical to advancing, enforcing and preserving policies that directly impact the lives and livelihoods of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families,” he said. “These advances include adding gender identity as a protected category to the department’s equal employment statement, and clarifying that the Family and Medical Leave Act is inclusive of same-sex couples raising children.
“Thomas Perez at the helm of the Labor Department will help keep this momentum moving forward,” he predicted.
Carey also praised his role in prosecuting George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case.
Allegations swirled that Perez may have perjured himself over the Black Panther voter intimidation case, which the department dismissed.
He told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) on May 14, 2010, that no political officers were “involved” in the dismissal. However, e-mails show at least two political officials were involved.
A 258-page report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, just released, concluded “that Perez’s testimony did not reflect the entire story regarding the involvement of political appointees in NBPP [New Black Panther Party] decision-making” and that Perez he “should have sought more details…about the nature and extent of the participation of political employees in the NBPP decision in advance of his testimony before the Commission.”
Senator David Vitter, R-LA, has vowed to fight the nomination, noting the AAG's involvement in “the DOJ's partisan full court press to pressure Louisiana's Secretary of State to only enforce one side of the law – the side that specifically benefits the politics of the president and his administrations.”
Perez accused Vitter's home state of failing to comply with a provision of the National Voter Registration Act by not providing voter registration forms to certain groups of people, like those enrolling in welfare programs, who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic. However, the DOJ expressed its hostility toward states removing dead, ineligible, or duplicate voters from their rolls.