Planned Parenthood Loses Latest Skirmish Over California Sidewalk Counselors
by Steven Ertelt
February 8, 2010
San Mateo, CA (LifeNews.com) — Officials at a California Planned Parenthood abortion business have lost their latest attempt to banish sidewalk counselors from in front of its center near San Francisco. Its latest effort appeared likely to go down in defeat after a judge made a preliminary ruling that the abortion business failed to prove its case.
The legal battle sees the abortion giant up against long-time pro-life advocate Ross Foti.
Over five years ago, Foti entered into a mutually binding injunction with Planned Parenthood Golden Gate (PPGG), in order to put an end to years of legal wrangling over his rights at the abortion business.
Foti agreed to stay 15 feet from the property and to limit the number of his signs on the sidewalk in exchange for PPGG’s agreement that its "escorts" would not block him or drown out his words when he would try to help women find positive abortion alternatives.
Katie Short, the legal director of the Life Legal Defense Fund, a pro-life group, told LifeNews.com today that PPGG was undoubtedly chagrined to find that the agreement sparked Foti to redouble his efforts as he continued to appear several times a week at the abortion center.
Over the years, other pro-life advocates, including some 40 Days for Life participants, came to pray and counsel on the public sidewalk in front of the clinic.
PPGG responded by retaining a private investigator to document Foti’s alleged violations of the injunction.
The abortion business claimed Foti was violating restrictions on where he, his signs, and his truck could be and claimed was "enlisting" other individuals to violate the injunction. The evidence for this contention were the occasional conversations that Foti was seen having with other pro-lifers who crossed the street to talk to him.
PPGG’s attack was not simply against Foti, who, if found in violation, could have received a jail sentence and a $21,000 fine and attorney fees. The larger strategy was to get a court to rule that Foti was "acting in concert" with anyone else who came to the clinic, and then to move against these individuals directly as co-contemnors with him, Short explained.
On December 5, PPGG arranged for process servers to serve the injunction and a threatening letter on every person who happened to be present at the abortion center that day.
At a trial held in San Mateo Superior Court on February 4 and 5, Judge Elizabeth Lee heard PPGG’s witnesses. Foti was represented by Short and volunteer attorney Mike Millen.
Under cross-examination, PPGG’s private investigator frequently contradicted himself and was forced to admit that his videos, photos, and notes did not support his earlier testimony that Foti had repeatedly violated the injunction, Short explained.
At the close of the plaintiff’s case, Judge Lee indicated that PPGG had not met its burden of showing that Foti was guilty of willfully violating the court order. However, at the urging of PPGG’s attorneys, she permitted a round of briefing to finalize the legal and factual arguments.
"Planned Parenthood’s attorneys are shamelessly trying to expand the reach of the injunction," said Short.
"They are conjuring up the most strained and fantastic interpretations of the language of the various provisions to further limit Mr. Foti," she added. "But they are also trying, as they have so often in the past, to use an injunction that applies to one group of pro-lifers as their ticket to get rid of every pro-lifer who comes after, no matter if it is years later."
"Fortunately, Judge Lee does not appear inclined to let them get away with it," she said.
The parties are due to appear in court in April for the final hearing on the matter.
Related web sites:
Life legal Defense Fund – https://www.lldf.org
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