9th Circuit OKs Abortion Foe’s Look at Lab Researchers’ Files

(CN) – Anti-abortion activist David Daleiden has scored a victory in the Ninth Circuit, with judges finding a lower court’s order blocking his access to public information about researchers associated with the University of Washington’s Birth Defects Research Laboratory was too broad.

The proposed class, potentially 600 people, wanted their personal identifying information redacted from all records given to Daleiden. But they failed to show how they were engaged in First Amendment-protected activity or that they are likely face threats and harassment if the information is disclosed, a three-judge panel ruled on Monday.

The temporary injunction will stay in place for no more than 120 days while the trial court gathers more information.

Daleiden, founder of the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress, made headlines in 2015 by releasing undercover videos filmed while posing as a potential buyer of fetal tissue at a Planned Parenthood in Houston.

Last year, Daleiden filed a public-records request with the University of Washington for documents about the purchase of human fetal tissue, organs and cells at the laboratory, and for communications between the research lab and clinics that provide abortion services in Washington state and Idaho – naming certain employees at the clinics.

Before the information was released, eight Doe plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Daleiden and the University of Washington seeking to redact their personal information from Daleiden’s request to protect their safety and privacy.

The plaintiffs include three employees of the University of Washington, employees of three Washington hospitals, a Planned Parenthood employee and a former Planned Parenthood employee.

U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a temporary injunction in November 2016, prohibiting the university from releasing documents without first redacting all personally identifying information including phone numbers, email addresses and job titles and all information from which a person’s identity could be derived with reasonable certainty.

Daleiden appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which found Robart erroneously relied on a “blanket finding” that the entire proposed class was engaged in protected First Amendment activity.

“Although we agree with the district court that there may be a basis for redaction where disclosure would likely result in threats, harassment, and violence, the court’s order did not address how the Doe plaintiffs have made the necessary clear showing with specificity as to the different individuals or groups of individuals who could be identified in the public records,” according to the unpublished per curiam ruling.

The panel remanded the case and left the preliminary injunction in place for 120 days to allow Robart time to further investigate the claims.

Circuit judges A. Wallace Tashima, M. Margaret McKeown and Jacqueline Nguyen made up the panel.

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