Liberty Counsel filed a request for an en banc review from the entire Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit against Sandra Merritt for her undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood and trafficking of tissues and organs from aborted baby body organs. In the brief, Liberty Counsel presented argument that the appeals court should reverse the lower court’s ruling, order a new trial and strike the punitive damages award.
A three-member panel of the Ninth Circuit recently affirmed the ruling against Merritt and David Daleiden, the founder of Center for Medical Progress, despite numerous errors of the trial court, including: (1) the award to Planned Parenthood of millions of dollars in “damages” involving publication of Planned Parenthood’s own words, without any proof that the undercover videos were false or deceptive, in violation of the First Amendment; (2) the use of Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to punish constitutionally protected undercover journalism intended to expose unethical and criminal wrongdoing; (3) the award to Planned Parenthood of “damages” involving legally recorded conversations without allowing the jury to hear those conversations, and without requiring Planned Parenthood to prove that the conversations recorded in public places were “confidential;” and (4) the failure of the district court judge to recuse himself from this case, despite the appearance of impropriety resulting from his connections to Planned Parenthood.
However, the appeals court reversed the jury’s verdict on the Federal Wiretap Act, after Liberty Counsel presented clear evidence that Merritt and her colleagues did not violate that statute, nor any other law.
Merritt and Daleiden released videos in 2015 exposing Planned Parenthood’s illegal trade in aborted baby body parts, after a 30-month undercover operation. The videos showed Planned Parenthood executives haggling over prices of aborted baby body parts and discussing how they change abortion procedures to obtain more intact organs.
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In 2019, the case was heard by San Francisco’s U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick III, who is the founder of the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center that houses the Planned Parenthood of Northern California facility in its complex. In 2017, the defense requested that Orrick recuse himself from the case and he refused. Judge Orrick severely restricted the evidence, and at the end, gave instructions to the jury on how they should rule on critical issues. The jury decided in favor of the abortion giant on each count, including RICO, and awarded more than $2 million in damages. The court subsequently awarded Planned Parenthood nearly $14 million in attorney’s fees and costs, for a total judgment of over $16 million.
Liberty Counsel’s Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Sandra Merritt is clearly being targeted for exposing the harvesting and sale of baby body parts and she deserves a fair trial. Sandra did nothing wrong. She only revealed the truth of what horrors are happening to precious unborn children. Liberty Counsel will continue to seek justice for Sandra Merritt and for these innocent babies.”