California Pro-Lifers Win Abortion-Free Speech Suit, Supreme Court Bows Out
by Steven Ertelt
January 13, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A lawsuit filed by pro-life advocates in California will not get a Supreme Court review after the high court declined to add it to its busy docket. The court denied a request to review a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld the constitutional rights of pro-life activists.
The Supreme Courts decision, which came without comment (as is typical), cements a victory for the Thomas More Law Center and the pro-life cause.
According to the pro-life law firm, pro-life advocates had attempted to display abortion signs on the public streets adjacent to the Dodson Middle School in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Two of the pro-life people involved were eventually arrested.
School officials and the LA County Sheriffs Department claimed the signs were disruptive and in violation of a California penal statute.
Thomas More filed suit on behalf of the pro-life advocates and the case made its way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which reversed a lower court decision and held that pro-life activists had a constitutional right to free speech regardless of its location at the time.
Robert Muise, trial counsel for the pro-life law firm told LifeNews.com that the Supreme Court’s decision not to consider overturning the appeals court decision is a victory for pro-life people engaging in grassroots activism.
"This is a tremendous victory for the First Amendment and the pro-life movement," he told LifeNews.com. "The Supreme Courts decision leaves the Ninth Circuits ruling undisturbed."
Doing so ensures "there is no double standard for pro-life speech and affirming the fundamental principle of the First Amendment that government officials cannot prohibit silent, peaceful, non-obstructive, political speech on the public streets simply because certain listeners or viewers find the speech offensive," Muise said.
The 9th Circuit’s opinion was written by Judge Harry Pregerson, who Muise says is considered by many to be one of the most liberal judges on that court.
He wrote in the ruling that "the government cannot silence messages simply because they cause discomfort, fear, or even anger.
The suit stems from a March 24, 2003, incident which saw school officials call the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department. Art Roberts, the assistant principal of Dodson Middle, joined the officers in telling the pro-life advocates that they would have to leave the area adjoining the school.
A federal district court dismissed the suit but the appeals court revived it and the defendants appealed the appellate court’s decision to the Supreme Court.
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