Abortion Center Videos Debate Brought to Halt

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The Ninth Circuit has ordered a federal judge to halt certain actions in a lawsuit against an anti-abortion group over secretly taped videos until it rules on an emergency motion to stay discovery.
The Center for Medical Progress, a group of self-described citizen journalists that released videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue in recent months, filed a writ of mandamus and emergency motion to stay discovery with the Ninth Circuit earlier this week.
Discovery has been a point of contention between CMP and the National Abortion Federation, which sued the activist group in July, for weeks. In a recent court filing, NAF accused CMP of attempting to “obstruct discovery into their conduct by all means necessary.”
On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit issued an order directing the district court not to issue a preliminary injunction or require CMP and its co-defendants to respond to any discovery requests until it rules on CMP’s writ of mandamus.
CMP’s 32-page mandamus petition, filed Sept. 14, asks the Ninth Circuit to order U.S. District Judge William Orrick to halt all discovery in the lawsuit until a ruling comes down on its motion to strike or dismiss NAF’s complaint. CMP also asks that Orrick be ordered to rule on a pending motion for preliminary injunction without conducting discovery.
Orrick issued a temporary restraining order blocking CMP from releasing secretly recorded videos of NAF meetings on July 31, hours after NAF sued the activist group for allegedly violating confidentiality agreements and violating the privacy of its members.
Last week, Orrick ruled CMP members and co-defendants David Daleiden and Troy Newman could not claim Fifth Amendment rights to refuse all of NAF’s discovery requests.
In a hearing Friday morning, Orrick also rejected CMP’s argument that it should be allowed to assert Fifth Amendment rights as a corporate entity because NAF alleged it was an “alter ego” of the individual defendants and not a separate entity in its pleadings to the court.
“I don’t think this is a very close issue,” Orrick said. “Corporations don’t have Fifth Amendment rights.”
Hours before the Ninth Circuit issued its order on Thursday, NAF filed a 21-page opposition memo with the appeals court, urging it to reject CMP’s emergency motion to stay discovery.
In its Sept. 17 order, the Ninth Circuit specified that the stay “does not otherwise affect the district court’s ability to take such actions as are ordinarily within its discretion, including ruling on legal issues bearing on discovery (such as the question whether the entity defendants may invoke the Fifth Amendment) or to adopt a discovery schedule for use should the petition for a writ of mandamus be denied.”
During Friday’s hearing, Orrick ordered both parties to meet and confer regarding what materials CMP intends to turn over in compliance with a subpoena from the Arizona state Attorney General, an order that cannot be fulfilled until the Ninth Circuit issues its ruling on CMP’s petition.
“In that meet and confer, the defendants need to identify what they intend to turn over and allow [NAF] to review so the plaintiffs can negotiate with state of Arizona or to quash,” Orrick said.
The judge added he plans to hold a telephone conference after the Ninth Circuit issues its ruling to set a new date for the preliminary injunction hearing, which he had hoped to schedule for Oct. 16.
“When the order comes down, we’ll have a telephone case management conference,” said Orrick. “You should meet and confer as soon as that order comes down.”

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