Abortion Foes Lose Another Round In Court Demonstrators Must Pick Up Clinic’s Legal Fees Of $100,000
The Supreme Court piled on more bad news for anti-abortion activists Monday, refusing to free five demonstrators from paying nearly $100,000 in lawyer fees to an abortion clinic they targeted.
The action, taken without comment in a case from Sacramento, Calif., extended abortion foes’ recent losing streak in the nation’s highest court. It marked the first time the issue of lawyer-fee awards in abortion-linked litigation had been considered by the justices.
“That the court would let this $100,000 penalty stand is outrageous, and sends a very chilling message to pro-life demonstrators,” said Jay Sekulow, a lawyer with the anti-abortion American Center for Law and Justice.
In other matters Monday, the court:
Turned down the appeal of a Tennessee girl who says her free-speech rights were violated when she received a grade of zero for doing her ninth-grade English research paper on the life of Jesus Christ. The teacher had told her to choose another topic.
Refused to revive an Alabama lawsuit that accused the South’s timber industry of illegal racial bias in barring blacks from certain jobs.
Turned away arguments aimed at limiting the scope of a second trial for a former Hare Krishna leader accused of using murder, kidnapping and fraud to protect a multimillion-dollar criminal enterprise - the religious community he founded in West Virginia.
In the Sacramento case, the justices let stand rulings that said the lawyer-fees award against the abortion protesters did not violate or wrongly “chill” their free-speech rights.
Last month, the court rejected a free-speech appeal by California protesters arrested for picketing too near an abortion doctor’s home.
And the court last month also rejected a sweeping challenge to federal limits on abortion clinic protests.
Sekulow said the court “is sending a message that it’s not interested in these types of cases at this time. But … we will continue to bring them to the court.”
Priscilla Smith of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy said the string of anti-abortion setbacks was consistent with the justices’ previous stands. “The court was pretty clear (in past rulings) on setting the boundaries regarding the clinic-violence issue,” she said.
In the past year, the justices have turned away appeals by anti-abortion activists who say they are being wrongly sued as racketeers in their efforts to stop women from having abortions.
Thirteen months ago, the court cleared the way for the jailing of Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry for contempt of court. Terry violated a court order by helping another man show President Clinton a fetus during the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
The court in 1992 ruled that states cannot ban most abortions, reaffirming the constitutional right of abortion it first announced in 1973.