Judge Allows Attorney for Pro-Life Notre Dame Protestors to Get Info
by Steven Ertelt
April 27, 2010
South Bend, IN (LifeNews.com) — In a major ruling–which ultimately could prove decisive for the defense–St. Joseph County Indiana Superior Court Chief Judge Michael P. Scopelitis lifted a stay order that barred lead defense attorney Tom Dixon from pursuing discovery from Notre Dame officials.
Dixon represents the 88 pro-lifers who peacefully assembled against the Catholic university’s decision to honor the vehemently pro- abortion President Barack Obama.
By allowing discovery, Judge Scopelitis authorizes Dixon to pursue testimony under oath from said officials who were key decision makers in the arrest of the ND88.
It will also allow him to subpoena documents that may shed light on the college’s apparent inconsistency regarding the arrest and prosecution of other groups and individuals participating in similar on-campus events.
"The lifting of this stay on discovery is very significant," said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society.
He added, "A Notre Dame alumni group, Sycamore Trust, recently reported that homosexual rights and anti-ROTC protesters received, at worst, mere slaps on the wrist for leading unauthorized protests on campus. We believe that through discovery we may well uncover evidence that the Notre Dame police engaged in ‘viewpoint discrimination:’ that the university singled out the ND88 for especially harsh treatment."
The stay order had been issued late last year by Hon. Jenny Pitts Manier, the original judge assigned to these cases.
Judge Manier later recused herself from hearing the cases because of apparent conflicts of interest raised by Attorney Dixon. Judge Manier had certified her rulings against recusal for immediate appeal, but after the appeal was filed, she stepped aside of her own accord.
Judge Scopelitis also ruled that once discovery is completed, he may convene an evidentiary hearing to review the defendants’ "global" legal defenses before any individual trials.
"Put simply, this does not mean the judge is insensitive to our legal defenses, but that he wants to be sure that they are presented in the appropriate procedural vehicle," explained Dixon.
The Thomas More Society has urged Notre Dame University president, the Rev. John Jenkins, to request that the charges be dropped against the ND88 in the same way that trespass charges were previously dropped against homosexual rights activists and anti-military protesters on the Notre Dame campus. Up to now, Fr. Jenkins has not acted on that request.
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