RECENT EVENTS REPORTED
Motion to Dismiss Criminal
NEW YORK, NY: ACLA Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara has filed a motion to dismiss criminal charges filed against a pro-life activist by the Manhattan District Attorney. The activist was charged with “harassment” and “disorderly conduct” The motion seeks dismissal on First Amendment grounds and for failure to grant a speedy trial. “In our view, the facts alleged do not establish any criminal offense,” said Mr. Ferrara. “This pro-life activist was peacefully exercising his First Amendment rights on a public sidewalk.”
Pro-Life Jury Trial scheduled
for May 22
ALLENTOWN, PA: ACLA attorneys will be representing pro-life activists as plaintiffs in a jury trial seeking damages against the City of Allentown for violation of the civil rights of the activists. The suit alleges that Allentown’s Police Chief, Assistant Police Chief and Mayor adopted a policy of using unwarranted criminal prosecutions to keep the pro-life advocates off the sidewalk an Allentown abortion mill.
Forty-one (41) prosecutions were initiated, and all of them ended in either acquittal or dismissal of all charges against the pro-life activists.
Pro-Life T-Shirt case Settled
BUFFALO, NY: Following the granting of a preliminary injunction by a federal district judge in Buffalo, the defendant Fillmore Central School District settled the lawsuit filed on behalf of a pro-life student by ACLA and attorneys at the Thomas More Law Center. The case was successfully argued before the federal court by ACLA Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara.
Under the settlement the school district has consented to a permanent injunction guaranteeing the student's right to wear the pro-life t-shirt to school without further interference by school authorities, or threats of discipline.
"This is a very important case for the first amendment rights of pro-life students, not only in the Fillmore district, but across the country," said Mr. Ferrara.
ACLA defend pro-lifers against Attorney General Suit
MANHATTAN, NY: ACLA is currently defending veteran pro-life activists John Cain and Luis Manchaca against a suit brought against them by attorneys of the "Reproductive Rights Unit" of the New York Attorney General's office.
The suit seeks to impose an elaborate speech restricting injunction that would severely hamper the pro-life advocates in their sidewalk counseling of women and offering of literature.
ACLA Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara is currently engaged in a preliminary injunction hearing in which the Attorney General presented 13 witnesses. The hearing is to conclude shortly.
"We believe this case is unfounded, and that any injunctive relief would be totally unwarranted," said Mr. Ferrara.
"The allegations in this case boil down to the staffers and clients of an abortion clinic being offended and disturbed by a message they do not want to hear. We intend to defend this case aggressively at every step of the way," Mr. Ferrara further stated.
A decision on the preliminary injunction is expected shortly.
Pennsylvania Pro-Life Law Suit Moves ahead
ALLENTOWN, PA: Led by Philadelphia litigation counsel Denis V. Brenan, ACLA attorneys are preparing for upcoming hearings in a federal action they have filed against the city of Allentown, its Mayor, Police Chief and other officials on behalf of a group of pro-life activists who witness for life at an Allentown abortion mill.
This is the second federal action ACLA attorneys have filed in this matter. The first action resulted in a pro-life victory when a federal district judge in Philadelphia granted a permanent injunction forbidding Allentown from requiring a "permit" for pro-life demonstrations at the abortion mill.
Since then, however, Allentown police have issued more than 40 citations for "loitering" and other alleged offenses in connection with peaceful protests at the abortion mill.
Mr. Brenan and Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara, who was admitted pro hac vice at one of the trials, have obtained acquittals or dismissals on all 40 of these charges.
The plaintiffs are seeking a further federal court injunction against the issuance of further citations for "loitering".
Further hearings are currently scheduled for late February.
Oregon Case heading to Supreme Court
PORTLAND, OR: ACLA attorneys, working with attorneys of the Thomas More Law Center, are preparing a petition for certiorari seeking Supreme Court review of the decision of the Ninth Circuit in the famous "Nuremberg Files" website case.
This case, which has received international publicity, involves a $109,000,000 verdict - since slashed by 96% -- against pro-life activists based on nothing more than two posters and a website alleged to be "threats" in violation of FACE and RICO.
"While the verdict has been slashed by the Ninth Circuit, what remains is still a violation of the First Amendment liberty of pro-life activists. We are hoping the Supreme Court will agree with our position," said ACLA Chief Counsel, Christopher A. Ferrara.
The certiorari petition is due to be filed on February 23, 2006.
ACLA's preliminary injunction request granted
BUFFALO, NY: United States District Judge John T. Elfvin in Buffalo has granted the ACLA’s request for a preliminary injunction which prohibits public high school authorities from ordering our pro-life client to remove, turn inside-out or otherwise cover his anti-abortion T-shirt.
Pending further order of the court, the school authorities can no longer threaten our client with suspension or any other penalty for expressing his pro-life views. Our client’s First Amendment rights have been upheld.
This case was orally argued before Judge Elfvin by ACLA’s President and Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara, working in conjunction with attorneys from the Thomas More Law Center.
“I look forward to working with Julie Shotzbarger and Edward White of the Thomas More Center in this important First Amendment case,” said Mr. Ferrara.
COURT SLASHES $109,000,000 PRO-LIFE VERDICT IN “Nuremberg Files” Website Case
PORTLAND, OR: On the same day the ACLA learned of this victory in Buffalo, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals slashed the $109,000,000 verdict in the famous "Nuremberg Files" website case by 95%, ordering the plaintiff abortionists to accept the drastically reduced amount or else conduct a new trial.
ACLA is representing several of the pro-life activists in this case. ACLA attorneys hope to obtain an ultimate reversal of the remainder of the verdict, in the United States Supreme Court if necessary.
PRO-LIFER ACQUITTED OF CRIMINAL TRESPASS
ALLENTOWN, PA: Following a four day trial before the Honorable Kelly Banach in the Court of Common Pleas in Allentown, pro-life activist Philip Pongracz was acquitted of a charge of defiant criminal trespass brought against him on a complaint by a security guard at the local abortion mill, Allentown Women’s Center. Mr. Pongracz was defended by ACLA’s litigation counsel Denis V. Brenan.
In acquitting Mr. Pongracz, Judge Banach cited the evidence of Allentown Women’s Center own security camera video tape, subpoenaed by Mr. Brenan, whose disclosure the Center had vigorously resisted. The tape failed to show Mr. Pongracz trespassing in the Center’s parking lot at the time alleged, even though the camera was trained on the area in question and was running at the time.
“The prosecution of Mr. Pongracz was totally unwarranted. The Commonwealth had access to the same video tape, and acknowledged that it could not see Mr. Pongracz engaging in trespass on the tape. That’s because Mr. Pongracz never trespassed. This case should never have gone to trial,” said Mr. Brenan.
“This prosecution was a waste of precious city resources at a time when Allentown is suffering from a rather high crime rate and a budgetary crunch,” added Mr. Brenan. “Mr. Pongracz has the benefit of a fair, impartial and thoughtful judge. A defendant could not ask for more than that,” he concluded.
Mr. Pongracz’s acquittal represents at least the 38th acquittal of pro-life activists charged with various offenses in connection with their peaceful demonstrations at the Center.
ACLA attorneys are currently pursuing two federal civil rights actions against Allentown and named officials.
ORAL ARGUMENT SCHEDULED IN “NUREMBERG FILES” WEBSITE CASE
PORTLAND, OR: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled for oral argument on July 12, 2005 the ACLA's continuing appeal from a $109 million verdict against a group of pro-life activists.
Other parties in the case are being represented by Thomas More Law Center. The verdict, reversed by a three judge panel only to be reinstated by a sharply divided en banc panel (by a vote of 6-to-5) punishes the pro-life activists for alleged violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances Act (FACE) and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
The verdict was based entirely on two anti-abortion posters and a website called “the Nuremberg Files.” The posters and website were presented to the jury as “threats” in violation of FACE and “extortion” in violation of RICO.
In reversing the verdict following oral argument by ACLA Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara, the three judge panel found that it violated the First Amendment, along with an injunction that prohibited republication or even possession of the posters or website.
The en banc panel, in reinstating the verdict, held that the communications could be construed as “threats” because “similar” communications by non-parties had been followed by violence against the abortionists named in the earlier communications.
Following the en banc panel’s decision, which remanded the case back to the trial court on the question of punitive damages, the Supreme Court declined to review the case at that time. Now that the trial court has upheld the punitive damages award in toto, the case is back before the Ninth Circuit on Appeal.
“Since the time of the en banc panel’s decision, there have been major changes in the law as the result of new Supreme Court decisions affecting all 'threat' claims against pro-life activists under FACE and RICO,” said Mr. Ferrara. “In particular, the Supreme Court has since effectively abolished the use of RICO against pro-life activists accused of ‘extortion’ but who obtain no more or property from their supposed victims,” Ferrara added. “We are hopeful that the Ninth Circuit, or, if necessary, the Supreme Court, will now reverse the verdict in this crucial case for pro-life activists across the country.”
This case has already received worldwide press coverage and has been the subject of law review articles and even a moot court exercise.
If necessary, this case will proceed to the United States Supreme Court on second petition for certiorari.
SUIT FILED ON BEHALF OF TEEN BARRED FROM WEARING PRO-LIFE SHIRT TO SCHOOL in new york state
NEW YORK: The ACLA, together with the Thomas More Law Center, has filed suit against the Fillmore School District near Buffalo, New York, on behalf of a Junior in High School, who was ordered by school authorities to cease wearing his pro-life shirt at his high school because its message---“Abortion is Homicide”---allegedly upset other students.
The student has been threatened with academic discipline under the school’s “dress code” if he wears the shirt again, and has already been suspended for one day, the suit alleges.
“Supreme Court case law is clear on this point,” said Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara. “A student does not leave his First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door, and the mere possibility of disturbance to other students is no basis on which to restrict peaceable student speech.”
The suit, now in its early stages, will soon proceed to a request for a preliminary injunction to protect Kevin’s right to wear his pro-life shirt. Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara will appear to argue in favor of the requested injunction.
ACLA files SUIT AGAINST SCHOOL DISTRICT THAT BANNED RELIGIOUS MUSIC
ESSEX COUNTY, NJ: The ACLA has filed suit against the Millburn School District in Essex County, New Jersey on behalf of Michael Stratechuck, and his two minor children, challenging the District’s policy of banning all religious music from school activities, including even traditional Christmas carols at Christmas time.
Mr. Stratechuck, himself a music teacher and professional violinist, opposes the policy as a form of state-sponsored religious discrimination in violation of the Establishment Clause, the suit alleges.
In this action ACLA’s chief counsel, Christopher A. Ferrara, is serving as local counsel for Robert J. Muise of the Thomas More Law Center.
CRIMINAL CONTEMPT CHARGES TO BE DISMISSED
LOWEVILLE, NY: The Lewis County District Attorney's office, following discussions and correspondence with Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara, has agreed to drop criminal contempt charges against Joseph and Victoria Kraeger arising from their peaceful public protest against a Planned Parenthood facility in Lowville, NY.
This action avoids a federal lawsuit Association attorneys were preparing to file in order to enjoin [stop] the prosecutions. "We are gratified by this result and intend to mount a vigorous defense to the remaining disorderly persons charges," said Mr. Ferrara.
ACLA attorneys move to hold city of allentown in contempt of court
ALLENTOWN, PA: ACLA attorney Denis Brenan and Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara moved before federal judge James McGirr Kelly for an order holding the city of Allentown and named officials, its mayor and police chief and other city officials, in contempt of court.
The motion for contempt states that the city and its officials have defied Judge Kelly’s injunction protecting the right of pro-life activists to advocate against abortion at an abortion facility on Keats Street in the city of Allentown.
Despite the injunction in favor of the pro-life activists, Allentown police continued to issue ongoing citations for “loitering,” every one of which was dismissed in state criminal court.
The motion further states that the issuance of these citations, and continual attempts by police to impose various conditions on pro-life advocate speech – such as forcing them to walk around the block and to remain in perpetual motion, thus preventing them from counseling abortion-bound women – constitute contempt of Judge Kelly’s injunction in favor of the pro-life activists’ right to peacefully protest and counsel women in the vicinity of the clinic.
The motion seeks a further order of the court prohibiting the issuance of any additional “loitering” citations or the imposition of any conditions on the activities of the pro-life advocates.
The motion also requests that the City of Allentown and the city officials be fined $1000 a day if they continue to interfere with pro-life advocacy on Keats Street; and that, if necessary, these same officials be imprisoned until they comply with the federal injunction.
The conduct of the police in this matter has included arresting, handcuffing, and manacling to a bench a 61 year old grandmother who was charged with “protesting without a permit.”
The contempt motion alleges that the Allentown police and named officials are violating their sworn duty to uphold the law and are, in fact, acting lawlessly in their effort to stifle pro-life advocacy on Keats street.
“This case is a crucial test for the rights of pro-life activists, not only in the state of Pennsylvania, but across America,” said Christopher A. Ferrara, ACLA’s Chief Counsel.
The motion has received extensive press coverage and was also covered in a story on National Public Radio. A hearing on the contempt motion is expected shortly.
SEE RELATED NEWS STORIES:
The Associated Press - December 23, 2004
Citing a ruling from a federal judge, a district justice has dismissed charges against four abortion protesters. MORE>>
The Associated Press - January 21, 2005
"Abortion opponents who contend city officials have repeatedly violated a federal judge's order to allow picketing outside a clinic have asked the judge to hold the city in contempt of court...." MORE>>
The Morning Call - January 21, 2005
"Abortion protesters want city fined for picket limits
Police ignore U.S. court order to let them rally near clinic, lawyers say...." MORE>>
Also see related stories below.
33 Citations Against Pro-Lifers: ALL DISMISSED.
ALLENTOWN, PA: Following a decision by federal judge James McGirr Kelly, in which he issued his August 9th injunction declaring that the pro-life advocates have the right to be on Keats Street, ACLA's Pennsylvania litigation counsel, Denis Brenan, has been defending no fewer than 33 spurious citations for “loitering” and “trespassing” issued by the Allentown police.
"I am happy to report that the pro-life advocates have been acquitted or granted a dismissal of every single one of these 33 charges, including two charges against veteran pro-life activist Donald Cumming, whom I defended in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas," stated Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara.
"These victories show the importance of the heroic perseverance of these fine men and women of conscience in the battle against Big Abortion. We are gratified to see their brave efforts being rewarded and their rights being protected by the courts," Chief Counsel Ferrara further observed.
York, PA: In yet another victory for the cause of life, veteran pro-life activist Edward Snell was recently acquitted of a charge of “harassment” arising from his constitutionally protected pro-life advocacy on the public sidewalk near an abortion facility in York.
Snell was accused of harassment based on nothing more than his peaceful pro-life activities and distribution of literature on alternatives to abortion.
Mr. Snell's defense at the the criminal trial was handled by Denis Brenan, the ACLA’s Pennsylvania litigation counsel.
“This is another significant victory for the first amendment rights of pro-life advocates," said Brenan following the acquittal.
The charges against Snell arose from long-standing efforts by the local abortion clinic to stifle pro-life protests in York.
ACLA attorneys successfully defended an earlier lawsuit brought by the clinic to obtain an injunction against pro-life protests. After years of litigation, the abortion clinic has finally dropped its claims against the pro-life defendants.
“These victories demonstrate that, through persistence and good legal work, Big Abortion can be resisted and defeated,” said ACLA Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara, who handled the earlier lawsuit in which the abortion clinic's claims against Snell and other pro-life activists were dropped.
Commenting to the ACLA on the acquittal, the Snells wrote: "Without your generous help it could have been a disastrous Christmas. God bless you in all your generous work."
Persecution of Pro-Life
LOWEVILLE, NY: After ACLA attorneys successfully defended against a groundless contempt charge filed against Mrs. Victoria Kreiger, a pro-life advocate and mother of ten, by the New York State Attorney General, and an equally groundless criminal indictment, winning an acquittal in both cases, the persecution of the courageous pro-life advocate and her husband and family continues.
The Lewis County District Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the Lowville, NY police department, is now attempting to have Mrs. Kreiger and her husband held in contempt of the federal injunction in a local state court! “State courts have no power to find people in contempt of federal court injunctions. I believe this prosecution constitutes harassment,” said Christopher A. Ferrara, ACLA’s chief counsel.
The new “contempt” charges brought against the Kreigers are based in part on the allegation that they “damaged” the property of the local Planned Parenthood clinic when their car allegedly left tire marks while being legally parked on the grassy shoulder of the road adjoining the clinic location.
“This is ridiculous,” said Mrs. Kraeger. “When they passed the FACE law, they told us that we would be safe if we did not try to block access to clinics but just engaged in peaceful sidewalk protest. Now they are trying to make that a criminal offense too.” “We thank God for the help Chris Ferrara and the ACLA are giving us pro bono,” she added.
Pro-life Activist Criminally Charged
for Sprinkling Holy Water!
MANHATTAN, NY: A veteran pro-life activist, John Cain, was criminally charged under the New York clinic access law on such bogus allegations as throwing a “corrosive liquid” at a Manhattan abortion mill.
The “corrosive liquid” was Holy Water!
After being arrested and suffering a life-threatening bout of cardiac arrhythmia, Mr. Cain was forced to endure criminal proceedings in the Manhattan criminal court system for almost a year, until the charges were finally dismissed for failure to grant a speedy trial.
“The prosecutor had no case. That’s why he was never ready to go to trial, so the court threw out all the charges,” said Mr. Cain.
ACLA intends to file a suit against the abortion clinic for malicious prosecution. “We cannot allow Catholic pro-life activists to be treated this way for defending innocent human life,” said Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara.
“Buddhists in the sanctuary”
case thrown out
GRAND RAPIDS, MI: In a victory for ACLA’s client, a widely reported “Buddhists in the Basilica” case arising in Grand Rapids, MI has been dismissed.
The suit had been brought against Fr. Michael McMahon by one Glen Freeman, sacristan of the Basilica of St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids, who claimed to be acting on behalf of a group of seven Tibetan Buddhist monks. The monks were invited to the basilica last February to “demonstrate” Hindu chants and prayers in an "Evening of Religious Prayers" in the Catholic sanctuary.
This "Evening of Religious Prayers included covering the consecrated high altar with Buddhist items, political signs, and particularly a placard larger than 8 feet x 10 feet showing an image of the face of the imprisoned Panchen Lama.
When Fr. McMahon and a group of traditionalist Catholics continuously prayed the Rosary in the pews in order to forestall this unfortunate sacrilege, the Buddhists eventually left without giving their “Evening of Religious Prayers”
The Bishop of Grand Rapids, Kevin Britt, who said he had no control over this sacrilege taking place in his dioscese, died suddenly in his sleep at the age of 59 shortly thereafter.
Freeman subsequently sued Father McMahon, seeking damages for “costs” allegedly incurred when the Buddhist “demonstration” did not proceed.
After being contacted by ACLA attorneys with document requests and a notice to take his deposition, Freeman abandoned the law suit during a pre-trial conference. He has since filed a document dismissing the suit altogether.
“This was a major victory for the right of Catholics to defend their faith. This suit should never been brought. I am deeply grateful to the ACLA for its assistance” said Fr. McMahon.
The ACLA received able assistance from affiliate attorney Gerard Garno.
ANOTHER PRO-LIFE VICTORY
ALLENTOWN, PA: In a major victory in the ongoing struggle of pro-life activists to exercise their first amendment rights in the city of Allentown, pro-life activist Donald Cummings and Phillip Pongracz were each acquitted of charges of harassment and defiant trespass this past week. In addition, six charges of loitering and protesting without permits were dismissed, for a total of ten (10) favorable outcomes.
During a trial before the Honorable Isaac Garb in the Court of Common Pleas, Donald E. Cummings was represented by ACLA Chief Counsel, Christopher A. Ferrara; and Mr. Pongracz by ACLA Pennsylvania Litigation Counsel Denis V. Brenan.
The “harassment” charge was based on an alleged sidewalk encounter with a supporter of the local abortion clinic where Cummings and Pongracz regularly engage in pro-life activism. The trespass charges were based on alleged trespass on the property claimed to be owned by the abortion clinic and the adjacent landowner.
Judge Garb granted motions for acquittal on all of those charges at the conclusion of the Commonwealth’s case. Judge Garb ruled that the harassment charges were precluded by the First Amendment and that the alleged following of the victim for a short time along the public sidewalk did not cross the line into unprotected conduct.
As for the trespass charges, Judge Garb ruled that there was a failure of proof that the clinic owned the property on which one of the trespasses allegedly occurred. He also ruled that there was insufficient proof with regard to the alleged trespass on the adjacent landowner’s property.
“The pro-life advocates in this case received a fair trial before a thoughtful and impartial judge. In such circumstances, pro-life activists cannot fail to prevail,” said Mr. Ferrara.
Co-counsel Denis Brenan noted that the City of Allentown has issued 22 charges which have been tried or scheduled for trial. Of those 22 charges, 21 have been dismissed either by way of acquittal or voluntary dismissal by the prosecutor. The 22nd charge remains to be tried. In addition to those 22 charges, the City has instigated numerous other charges which appear to be equally meritless.
“The citizenry of Allentown should be up in arms at the waste of City resources and the massive police protection and instantaneous response for the Allentown Women’s Center,” said Mr. Cummings. “We hope these acquittals and dismissals will help immensely in our federal civil rights case.”
ACLA Opens Apologetics Desk
FAIRFIELD, NJ: The Association has opened an Apologetics Desk on its website to field questions and objections concerning the Catholic Faith.
"Apologetics has always been part of the Association's mission," said Vice President Thomas F. Portelli, "and now it's time to take it to the internet. After all, what could be more natural for a Catholic lawyer than defending his own faith in the court of public opinion?"
The Apologetics desk will publish contributions from prominent priests, including members of its advisory board, and professional lay apologists.
Allentown Authorities Defy
ALLENTOWN, PA: Following a federal court lawsuit in which Association attorneys won a permanent injunction in favor of the right of Catholic pro-lifers to protest at the abortion clinic in that city, the Allentown police and other City authorities are continuing to harass pro-life advocates by issuing them citations for “loitering” and “trespassing.”
The Association’s Pennsylvania litigation counsel, Dennis Brenan, has brought a second lawsuit against Allentown to enforce the federal injunction and to seek damages and other relief on behalf of these beleaguered pro-life advocates.
“If a federal judge ruled that the pro-life advocates we represented we have the right to be on Keats Street without a permit, they cannot possibly be guilty of ‘loitering’ and ‘trespassing’” said Brenan.
The suit alleged that in addition to the summonses for “loitering” and “trespassing,” Allentown authorities are also trying to invent new restrictions on pro-life speech at the abortion clinic.
As attorney Brenan explained: “First they declared that pro-life advocates cannot remain standing on Keats Street, but that they would have to walk back and forth continuously. When this did not stop our clients in their peaceful protest, the police then demanded that the pro-life advocates must walk constantly around the entire city block -- a distance of 1,360 feet -- in order to pass by the clinic only once. This made it impossible for our clients to hand out literature or counsel the women. "The suit seeks damages and order of the court preventing further police harassment.
ACLA Special Update on
National public radio Report
ALLENTOWN, PA: January 27, 2005 Pro-life advocate Kathy Kuhns, a plaintiff in the pending litigation against the City of Allentown, contacted the Association to report that the motion against the City and named officials for contempt-of-court, filed by ACLA attorneys Denis Brenan and Christopher A. Ferrara, had received fair and impartial coverage on National Public Radio, out of Philadelphia on January 21.
This NPR report sparked great interest, including an inquiry from an attorney representing the subject abortion clinic, who contacted the Association seeking information about the broadcast.
Kuhns was a long-time resident of Allentown, and grew up near the current location of the abortion clinic on Keats street. This personal closeness with the City has made the controversy over its abortion clinic even more poignant for her, Kuhns said.
Kuhns expressed gratitude for ACLA’s assistance in the case: “The lawyers of the ACLA are wonderful beyond words. I am just in awe of their intelligence and their lawyering. God is so good to have sent them to help us.
“It is very difficult to find lawyers who will help us. There are many lawyers who agree with our pro-life position, but they are not willing to take the battle into the courts. But Mr. Brenan and Mr. Ferrara support us in our desire to stand up for our beliefs and our rights as Catholics in protesting abortion.
“They are helping babies even more than we are. What the ACLA is doing will influence this fight throughout the country. Every time we gain an inch in the courts, it matters. God bless the ACLA for all they do."
Kathy concluded by making a plea for the support of the Bishops and the priests of the Catholic Church. "If they would only speak out on our behalf," she said. "The silence leaves us without defenses. We need them behind us. If the Bishops spoke out, the priests would be encouraged in this fight, the faithful would be encouraged, the pro-life lawyers, doctors, nurses would be encouraged.
"This is a grave sin of omission. Without their support, our efforts on behalf of the unborn are greatly compromised," said Kathy.
August 9, 2004: Major Federal Court Victory in Philadelphia
ALLENTOWN, PA: On August 9, 2004, Association attorneys achieved a major pro-life victory in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Honorable James McGirr Kelly granted a permanent injunction in favor of pro-life activists who demonstrate in front of an abortion mill in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
For months our pro-life clients have been hassled, maliciously prosecuted, and otherwise browbeaten and intimidated by the local police, acting in conjunction with the mayor and assistant police chief of Allentown. Among other things, the police were attempting to use a permit ordinance designed for parades and other large events to prohibit out clients’ presence near the abortion mill.
In his decision, Judge Kelly declared that the application of the “permit” requirement to our clients’ protests was unconstitutional. Judge Kelly then ordered the City of Allentown, its mayor, police chief, and assistant police chief to cease their attempts to require a “permit” for our clients’ protest activities.
In short, Judge Kelly has vindicated the First Amendment rights of pro-life activists in the City of Allentown, and his courageous decision will send a message to other police departments which, even now, are attempting to use “permit” and “obstruction of traffic” ordinances to harass, intimidate, and prosecute pro-lifers who seek to exercise their First Amendment rights on the public sidewalks.
This victory required many hours of dogged and exhausting legal work: motions, briefs, the preparation and examination of witnesses at hearings, the review of transcripts, the preparation of findings of fact and findings of law. And the battle is not over. The City of Allentown may well appeal Judge Kelly’s decision, which will require us to continue the fight in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and perhaps all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
Women's Group Apologizes
to ACLA client Monica Miller, PhD.
MICHIGAN: PRESS RELEASE...The following appeared on the Women Leaders Online website in response to a letter from ACLA Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara:
<< Editor's Note: On October 16, 2002, Women Leaders Online received a certified letter from Christopher A. Ferrara, President and Chief Counsel of the American Catholic Lawyers Association, Inc. He wrote:
"I represent Monica Miller, Ph.D., a pro-life activist and Roman Catholic theology professor now residing in Michigan. The following false and defamatory statement concerning my client appears on your organizational Website at http://wlo.org/wwa/offley.html:
'Miller is the director of Milwaukee Citizens for Pro-Life Society, a close associate of Joe Scheidler, and one of two directors of the North Central region of American Coalition of Life Activists, the organization set up to bridge the gap between the mainstream anti-choice movement and the pro-murder current of which Miller is a part [Monica Migliorino Miller was one of the first signers of Paul Hill's "Justifiable Homicide" declaration which calls for the murder of abortion providers]'.
"Monica Miller never signed Paul Hill's justifiable homicide petition, has disagreed with Paul Hill's views, and has told him so. She is not part of any "pro-murder current" of the anti-choice movement", but rather has consistently written and spoken against the use of deadly force in opposition to abortion, holding that such use of force would be contrary to Catholic teaching.
"Please publish on your Website a prominent retraction of your false and defamatory statement, with apologies to Dr. Miller, within ten (10) days of your receipt of this letter. Should you fail to do so, an action will be commenced against your organization and you for defamation."
Christopher A. Ferrara
President & Chief Counsel
We searched the Internet for a list of those who signed Paul Hill's "Defensive Action Statement", and found this page from Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Indeed, Dr. Miller's name is not among the signers.
Women Leaders Online therefore apologizes for republishing false information about Dr. Miller. >>>
Christopher A. Ferrara to Defend
Fr. Michael McMahon Against
GRAND RAPIDS, MI: Christopher A. Ferrara, Chief Counsel of the American Catholic Lawyers Association, will be defending Fr. Michael McMahon of the Society of St. Pius X in the widely reported “Buddhists in the basilica” case arising in Grand Rapids, MI.
Fr. McMahon was sued by one Glen Freeman, sacristan of The Basilica of St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids, who claims to be acting on behalf of a group of seven Tibetan Buddhist monks.
The monks were invited to the basilica’s sanctuary last February to “demonstrate” Hindu chants and prayers. When Fr. McMahon and a group of traditionalist Catholics continuously prayed the Rosary in the pews, the Buddhists eventually left without giving their “demonstration.”
Freeman seeks damages for “costs” allegedly incurred when the demonstration did not proceed. (The Bishop of Grand Rapids, Kevin Britt, who apparently approved the event, died suddenly in his sleep at the age of 59 last May.)
“I look forward to defending a very fine and courageous priest in a First Amendment case of considerable importance,” said Ferrara, a specialist in First Amendment litigation who has been admitted “pro hac vice” to the local court and will handle the case pro bono.
“These faithful Catholics, Fr. McMahon included, had every right to pray in a Catholic Church. It is absurd that a Catholic sacristan is suing his fellow Catholics on behalf of Buddhists, based on Catholic prayers being said in a Catholic sanctuary”, said Ferrara.
Ferrara said he will be taking a pretrial deposition of Freeman shortly, and that he will appear to defend the case at trial should he not obtain a dismissal.
Pro-Life Activist Acquitted OF Charge Under Clinic Access Law
LOWVILLE, NY: In what appears to be the first trial court application of New York's Clinic Access Law, pro-life activist Victoria Kraeger was acquitted of a charge of alleged "interference" with clinic access, after a trial in which she was defended by ACLA Chief Counsel, Christopher A. Ferrara.
Mrs. Kraeger had been indicted based upon a sidewalk encounter with the client of a local Planned Parenthood clinic. This was precisely the same incident that gave rise to a prior federal contempt proceeding, in which chief counsel Christopher A. Ferrara obtained a dismissal following an evidentiary hearing.
"An important victory for the First Amendment rights of pro-life activists throughout the State of New York. It demonstrates that pro-life speech is not a crime just because people don't want to hear it," said Mr. Ferrara after the verdict.
The Association also helped the Kraeger family to avoid paying a federal court judgement of $80,000 under the FACE law. Afterwards, Mrs. Kraeger wrote as follows to the ACLA:
"I am writing to thank you for all the hard work and good advice you and the ACLA staff put forth on our behalf. When the federal judge told us we would have to pay $80,000, I thought, 'the pro-aborts will be taking our farm!' There was no way we could pay $80,000...
"Because of the professional staff at ACLA, we no longer feel threatened...Most importantly, we can re-focus our efforts away from the courtroom and back to the sidewalk, offering help to women...and hopefully saving babies."