PETA, Project Veritas, 20 state attorneys general rally behind pro-lifers who exposed sale of baby body parts
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April 28, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Animal rights groups, investigative organizations, pro-life groups, and 20 state attorneys general are rallying behind David Daleiden and his co-defendants to appeal the multimillion dollar judgment levied against them after they exposed Planned Parenthood’s illegal baby body parts trafficking.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Project Veritas, Live Action, Americans United for Life, Judicial Watch, and the attorneys general of 20 states filed amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in support of the appeal of the $16 million judgment imposed on Daleiden, his organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP), and pro-life associates Sandra Merritt, Albin Rhomberg, and Operation Rescue president Troy Newman, after Planned Parenthood sued them.
The attorneys general supporting the pro-life journalists were from Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
In November 2019, a San Francisco jury found CMP, Daleiden, Merritt, Rhomberg, and Newman jointly liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to Planned Parenthood, tripled to $1.4 million under a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) charge. Combined with compensatory damages, the award totaled more than $2 million. This past December, an additional $13.6 million in attorney fees were awarded to Planned Parenthood.
The hefty collective weight of these “friends of the court” who are asking to overturn the pro-lifers’ punishment is an indication not just of definite error by the court but of widespread recognition of its alarming consequences for law and justice in America.
The 20 state attorneys general and organizations are acutely aware, from their own work experience, of the scope of the First Amendment, which protects deceptive tactics involved in undercover work, and of its importance in helping undercover journalists launch investigations of corrupt, inhumane, and illegal activity.
The amicus briefs argue that because the pro-lifers’ undercover work is protected by the First Amendment, the costs incurred by Planned Parenthood as a result are “not recoverable as damages,” as Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) pointed out. A fatal error of the court, LLDF notes, was that District Court Judge William Orrick refused to inform the jury of this fact.
The undercover investigative reporting group Project Veritas noted in their brief that “Although nominal damages are ordinarily available in trespass claims stemming out of conduct that is otherwise protected by the First Amendment, here the inclusion of compensatory and punitive damages is constitutionally suspect.” The compensatory and punitive damages awarded to Planned Parenthood in this case are so massive that they constitute “bankrupting” claims.
Project Veritas’s amicus brief points out that “false speech to gain entry to property for newsgathering purposes has a lengthy pedigree in the United States,” citing a recent Ninth Circuit case, Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden, that struck down a portion of Idaho’s so-called Ag-Gag law that it found to be “fatal to First Amendment liberties.” The court rejected the claim that the “simple entry of a trespasser onto the property by misrepresentation” constituted a legal injury, arguing that it does not constitute an actual property infringement.
The historic, critical role of undercover journalism in exposing unethical and even cruel treatment of human beings and animals was invoked in the amicus brief filed by animal advocacy organizations such as the controversial PETA, along with eleven First Amendment scholars.
The brief stated that “undercover newsgathering and reporting is central to democratic accountability in the United States” and to “law and policy debates on matters of public concern.”
“From Mortimer Thompson’s firsthand accounts of the slave trade leading up to the Civil War, to Nellie Bly’s graphic translation of her time in Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum, to Upton Sinclair’s exposé of the meat-packing industry, investigative reporting is responsible for bringing to public view some of the most pressing matters in the last 150 years,” the brief continued.
The brief further argued that “the use of deception for undercover investigative reporting on matters of public concern is constitutionally protected speech,” and is “absolutely necessary to access facts hidden from public view and thereby enable accurate stories.”
Justin Marceau, a law professor and co-author of the brief, wrote that “(if) left standing, the district court's various decisions on recoverable damages will be a roadmap for investigative subjects to sue journalists, activists, and whistleblowers to chill their undercover investigative work.”
The 20 state attorneys general went even further in their joint amicus brief, arguing that the court not only erred in its finding that the CMP videos contained “no evidence of actual criminal wrongdoing” but that it wrongly discounted the public interest by discounting the congressional, state, and local investigations of Planned Parenthood that resulted from the release of the CMP videos.
The brief cited “the substantial law enforcement and policy consequences of the release of the CMP Videos,” which included the termination of Planned Parenthood’s participation in Texas’s Medicaid program, the Orange County District Attorney’s prosecution of firms for selling fetal tissue “exclusively acquired” from Planned Parenthood, and the prohibiting of most fetal tissue transfers by the Arizona Legislature.
One federal investigation that was “supposedly launched in 2017 into the allegations raised, in part, through the video documentation by CMP,” is still pending an update from the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) on the Department of Justice/FBI response, according to Breitbart News.