Obama Admin Forced to Pay $120K After Targeting Pro-Lifer
by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 4/2/12 12:54 PM
The Obama administration has been forced to pay a pro-life advocate it targeted with a lawsuit $120,000 and it has dropped its case against the Florida woman helping women find abortion alternatives.
The administration lost one round of a legal battle it is waging in court against a Florida pro-life advocate — a battle that saw the administration unfairly seek to punish a peaceful sidewalk counselor under a law meant to stop violence and intimidation.
Susan Pine is a sidewalk counselor. She counsels women who are considering abortion and provides help, resources, and support for women who choose life. Without any evidence of wrongdoing, Attorney General Holder accused Pine of obstructing the entrance to an abortion clinic in violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (“FACE”).
Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice had sought to levy thousands of dollars in fines against the pro-life activist as well as seeking a permanent injunction banning her from continuing her faithful 20-year ministry outside an abortion clinic in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“But this scheme was thrown out of court and drew criticism from Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp, who concluded that the government lacked evidence to prove not just one, but “all three elements of its FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act) claim,” said Mathew Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel Action, whose organization is assisting Pine.
The Obama administration looked to appeal the case, but now Staver tells LifeNews the Department of Justice (DOJ) has dropped its appeal in Holder v. Pine against Pine after it represented her in court. The DOJ has agreed to pay $120,000 for this improper lawsuit after it unsuccessfully sought thousands of dollars in fines against Pine and sought a permanent injunction banning her from counseling women on the public sidewalk outside the Presidential Women’s Center (“PWC”) abortion clinic.
“After 18 months of litigation, the DOJ’s case was thrown out of federal court, and the department was chastised for filing a case with no evidence. Federal Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp stated that Holder’s complete failure to present any evidence of wrongdoing, coupled with the DOJ’s cozy relationship with PWC and their joint failure to preservevideo surveillance footage of the alleged “obstruction,” caused the court to suspect a conspiracy at the highest level of the Obama Administration,” Staver said.
“The Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place,” wrote Judge Ryskamp. “The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and PWC, which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct.”
Judge Ryskamp concluded that “the evidence could not lead a rational jury to find that Ms. Pine’s conduct [i.e., having peaceful conversations with clinic visitors on a public sidewalk] constituted a physical obstruction within the meaning of FACE.” The Judge chastised Holder for seeking to apply federal law in a clearly unconstitutional manner, saying, “Stretching the terms of FACE to apply to this case…so that a desire to provide people with information about alternatives to abortion constitutes an unlawful motive, would unjustifiably impinge on Ms. Pine’s First Amendment rights.”
After this ruling the DOJ appealed on the last day possible and gave indication that President Obama ordered the appeal.
Staver said, “It is irresponsible for the U.S. Department of Justice to place politics above principle when deciding to prosecute, and thus attempt to silence, a pro-life sidewalk counselor without any evidence of wrongdoing. When the nation’s highest law enforcement officer files suit against any citizen, the suit must be based on the law coupled with compelling evidence. Anything less is an abuse of the high office. Susan Pine will not be silenced or detoured from her mission to save the lives of innocent children.”
Ironically, this past December, in the midst of the case, Pine counseled a woman outside of the PWC abortion business and convinced her not to have an abortion, thus saving the life of the child and possibly the mother as well. Her email to Liberty Counsel read, “We saved a life today.”
The Life Legal Defense Foundation has also commented on the case.
“Mary Susan Pine thought her legal battles were over when a Florida judge dismissed all charges against her based on the complete lack of evidence presented by Attorney General Eric Holder,” the organization said. “After all, Judge Ryskamp openly chastised Holder, questioning his motives for bringing the charges in the first place and suggesting a conspiracy between the government and the abortion clinic to violate Ms. Pine’s free speech rights.”
LLDF said: “The Department of Justice disregarded the court’s sound ruling and has now filed an appeal. Despite the struggling economy and skyrocketing federal debt, apparently, the U.S. Government sees fit to expend unlimited taxpayer dollars pursuing these baseless charges against Ms. Pine. The Department of Justice disregarded the court’s sound ruling and has now filed an appeal. Despite the struggling economy and skyrocketing federal debt, apparently, the U.S. Government sees fit to expend unlimited taxpayer dollars pursuing these baseless charges against Ms. Pine.”
Staver says the Pine case is one reason why Holder should be removed from office.
“Mary Susan Pine is a picture of courage and moral strength. For the last twenty plus years, she has spent virtually every Saturday in front of an abortion clinic. Susan counsels women who are considering abortion and provides help, resources, and support for women who choose life for their babies,” he said. “Susan’s dedication made her a target of Eric Holder and the radically pro-abortion Obama Administration. But she would not be silenced. Even while targeted and harassed by the federal government, Susan continues to stand for life and defend those who cannot defend themselves.”
“In 2008, Holder refused to prosecute members of the New Black Panthers who were caught on video engaging in voter intimidation during Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign – yet, he will unleash his legal team to stop a pro-life woman from talking to people about the long-term effects of abortion,” Staver continued. “Mary Susan Rice was the target of Attorney General Holder’s misguided attempt to intimidate pro-life citizens. He failed. Yet, his DOJ is still considered (and even feared) by many to be a strong extension of Barack Obama’s political agenda. How many more outrageous cases will Eric Holder initiate to advance the Obama Administration’s political interests?”