NAPA, Calif. -- Life Legal filed a petition last week with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review the case of investigative journalists who exposed Planned Parenthood's harvesting and sale of the body parts of aborted babies.
In 2019, a San Francisco court issued a $2 million judgment against the Center for Medical Progress in connection with CMP videos showing Planned Parenthood executives haggling over the price of organs and other parts of babies killed at PP abortion mills. The judgment included nearly $900,000 in punitive damages for violating federal racketeering (RICO) laws, which were enacted to eliminate organized crime and drug cartels. The RICO claim also allowed Planned Parenthood to be awarded an additional $14 million in attorney fees and costs.
A panel of judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment.
The RICO claims were based on the use of fake IDs to gain entrance to abortion industry conferences for the purpose of exposing the illegal harvesting and sale of baby body parts. Planned Parenthood was awarded hundreds of thousands in "damages" to pay for state-of-the-art security systems, to prevent other whistleblowers from attending abortionists' meetings. Additional damages were awarded to compensate Planned Parenthood for hiring personal security because it was concerned about threats from individuals who had nothing whatsoever to do with this case. This is a violation of a long line of cases holding that the First Amendment protects speech that "may have an adverse emotional impact on the audience."
In short, there is no existing legal doctrine that supports an award of damages to compensate for the prevention of hypothetical future recurrences of unwanted conduct. In fact, the lower court in this very case rejected this theory – yet the Ninth Circuit resurrected it without any basis in law.
Moreover, case precedent explicitly holds that damage awards must be directly attributed to the alleged unlawful conduct. In this case, undercover journalists David Daleiden, Sandra Merritt, and their associates with the Center for Medical Progress did not cause any actual damage to Planned Parenthood, other than to the abortion giant's reputation after the public learned of the barbaric practice of cutting up aborted babies and selling their organs and tissue to the highest bidder.
"We urge the Court to reconsider its ruling in light of Supreme Court – and its own – long-established precedent," said Life Legal Chief Legal Officer Katie Short. "Punishing free speech by imposing draconian damage awards is a clear misinterpretation of case law and the First Amendment. The Ninth Circuit's ruling is a blueprint for shutting down freelance investigation into matters the elite and the mainstream media would prefer remain out of the public view."
The Ninth Circuit has ordered Planned Parenthood to file a response to our petition.
About Life Legal Defense Foundationwww.lldf.org.Life Legal Defense Foundation was established in 1989, and is a nonprofit organization composed of attorneys and other concerned citizens committed to giving helpless and innocent human beings of any age, and their advocates, a trained and committed voice in the courtrooms of our nation. For more information about the Life Legal Defense Foundation, visit