Judge in Notre Dame-Obama Speech Case Recuses Herself After Appeal Filed
by Steven Ertelt
January 12, 2010
South Bend, IN (LifeNews.com) — The judge in the case concerning the pro-life protesters arrested on the campus of Notre Dame University expressing their opposition to the Catholic college giving an award to pro-abortion President Barack Obama has recused herself after an appeal was filed suggesting a conflict of interest.
Judge Jenny Pitts Manier, assigned to the ND88 case, is married to pro-abortion Notre Dame professor Edward Manier.
Attorney Tom Dixon, who is representing the dozens of pro-life advocates involved, filed two motions asking Judge Manier to step down.
His claim of bias was based on the judge’s prior rulings in abortion protest litigation, her husband’s outspoken criticism of Catholic pro-life teachings while serving as a tenured philosophy professor at Notre Dame, and other factors.
When she refused, Dixon and other Thomas More Society attorneys filed papers in Indianapolis with the Appellate Court to secure a ruling that Judge Manier should be required to step down from hearing the case.
Now, Judge Manier has recused herself just days after those papers were filed.
She filed an order last week saying she had decided to recuse herself and will step aside from the case. As a result, her move sends the case back to the Chief Judge of the St. Joseph County civil court for assignment of a new trial judge.
In a statement TMS sent to LifeNews.com today, the pro-life legal group says the defense motion for dismissal of the charges will now be heard by another trial judge who should give the protestors a fair hearing. The defendants’ motion to dismiss all the cases were to be heard on a "global" basis, with all 88 cases consolidated for that purpose.
Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, told LifeNews.com Judge Manier’s decision is an "unexpected gift."
"It is essential that these important cases be decided by an impartial tribunal. We look forward to securing a favorable ruling on the pending motion for dismissal," he said.
The motion for dismissal is based on several factors, including that Notre Dame campus police were exercising state arrest powers in a manner that was "viewpoint- discriminatory" in arresting the pro-lifers at a series of demonstrations on campus while tolerating similar demonstrations on the part of pro-Obama advocates.
Among those arrested were prominent pro-life figures including Alan Keyes, former presidential candidate who also ran for the U.S. Senate against then-Senate candidate Barack Obama, and Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" in Roe v. Wade.
‘The Thomas More Society continues to call for Notre Dame to intercede with the county prosecutor to obtain an early dismissal of these still-pending charges," Brejcha said.
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