Violent Protester Loses Suit Against Marshals
(CN) - While citing the "home raids by Red Guards during China's Cultural Revolution," the 6th Circuit refused to advance a lawsuit against U.S. marshals by the violent anti-abortion activist whose home they blitzed in satisfaction of a judgment for Planned Parenthood.
"If the facts alleged in the complaint are true, this case involves an incident that is more like home raids by Red Guards during China's Cultural Revolution than like what we should expect in the United States of America," Judge John Rogers wrote for the Cincinnati-based federal appeals court.
Michael Bray is an American minister, registered terrorist and member of the radical anti-abortion organization Army of God. He was convicted in 1985 of two counts of conspiracy and one count of possession and unregistered explosive device related to 10 bombings of women's health clinics, and offices of liberal advocacy groups.
A plea bargain put Bray in prison for years. His 1994 book "A Time to Kill" describes his views as "defend[ing] as a moral and ethical proposition the use of force to defend innocent human beings, born and unborn."
Despite the title of the book, Bray claims he has never encouraged anyone to physically attack or kill abortionist or abortion facilities.
But Planned Parenthood of Columbia/Williamette, an organization that performs abortions in Oregon, sued Bray for intimidation by threat of force, using the book as evidence, and a jury awarded it $850,000.
It sought to collect on the judgment in 2005, and obtained a writ of execution authorizing U.S. marshals to seize Bray's computers, printers, camcorder, stereo and video equipment, and all of his books.
According to Bray's subsequent complaint in Columbus, Ohio, the armed marshals showed up at the activist's home without warning, and ordered Bray to remain seated on a sofa in the front room for four hours while they carried boxes of his personal property out of the home and members of Planned Parenthood walked around with clipboards and videotaped his belongings.
Bray said he was not permitted to call his lawyer, but that a marshal eventually made the call for him, and that only the children's books and Bibles were left behind.
"This kind of home attack on the ability to convey ideas should not happen in our Republic," Rogers wrote. "It is true that the debtor's ideas - that it is moral to take violent, illegal action to stop abortions - are repugnant. But it is contrary to our fundamental norms to permit government-sanctioned attacks on the purveyance of ideas, even when those ideas are repugnant."
Nevertheless, the panel affirmed the dismissal of Bray's claims against U.S. Marshals Chris Riley and Joel Kimmet.
"Notwithstanding the highly questionable way in which the court's order of execution was apparently aimed to stifle the debtor's ability to express ideas, the debtor-plaintiff in this case has not challenged the validity or scope of the judge's order," Rogers said.
The marshals believed they were executing a valid court order, and might also have believed that asking representatives of Planned Parenthood to join the raid was permissible, the court found.
"Although some of the actions allegedly carried out by the marshals and not explicitly authorized by the order were not constitutional, that unconstitutionality was not then clearly established with sufficient specificity [at the time of the violations] ," the 13-page opinion states. "Riley and Kimmet are therefore entitled to qualified immunity from suit."