NOW has brought racketeering charges against Joe Scheidler and several other defendants for anti-abortion tactics that include confrontational clinic blockades, such as this one at a Maryland clinic.
by Catherine Caporusso, former NOW Foundation Staff Attorney
Given the Roe v. Wade anniversary bombings of abortion clinics in Atlanta and Tulsa, this is a particularly appropriate time for an update on the NOW v. Scheidler case, our 11-year attempt to hold accountable those who plan and orchestrate abortion violence.
NOW Foundation's lawyers are busy preparing for the Scheidler trial, which is set for May. By the end of January, attorneys had finished taking depositions from the defendants and several co-conspirators.
The co-conspirators include Don Treshman, head of Rescue America and the primary proponent of the "lock and block" method of preventing access to women's clinics, which features Kryptonite bicycle locks imbedded in concrete. Another co-conspirator is Michael Griffin, who killed Dr. David Gunn and who has had ties with the Scheidler defendants.
The on-going campaign of anti-abortion violence endorsed and practiced by the defendants makes it even more important to win this case, said NOW Foundation President Patricia Ireland.
"This racketeering case will prove the connection among these far-from-random acts," Ireland said in a Roe anniversary news release. "And with the possibility of being awarded triple the usual damages, we will try to put the terrorists out of business once and for all." NOW Foundation attorneys spent countless days taking new depositions from defendants Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, Monica Migliorino of Milwaukee Citizens for Life and the American Coalition of Life Activists, and Joseph Scheidler, Tim Murphy and Andrew Scholberg of the Pro-Life Action League. NOW Foundation lawyers were also present at the defendants' deposition of Susan Hill, who owns several clinics represented in the lawsuit.
Although we were prepared to go to trial March 2, the trial date was postponed. Terry and Migliorino recently filed summary judgment motions asking the court to decide the case in their favor without a trial, and Scheidler's attorney attempted to extend the deadline for filing his own motion. Although the judge publicly chastised Scheidler's attorney for his inability to meet court deadlines and refused to allow him more time, the judge delayed the beginning of the trial until the other motions are resolved.
One of these pending motions is NOW's application to have the lawsuit certified as a class action. The trial is now expected to occur in Chicago by mid-May, but no specific date has been set by the court.
Lead counsel is Chicago lawyer Fay Clayton, who argued the Scheidler case before the Supreme Court; attorneys assisting her firm include Dalya Khan, Mimi Bahcall, Rawn Reinhart, Alan Pollack and Terry Satinover.
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