SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - An anti-abortion group appealed a federal judge's order to disclose the names of those it allegedly conspired with to secretly record an abortion trade group's meetings in April 2014.
U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick ordered the Center for Medical Progress and its founder David Daleiden to disclose the names on Oct. 30, rejecting arguments that such a disclosure would violate First Amendment rights to freedom of association.
Orrick said the National Abortion Federation, which sued the center in July for breaching a confidentiality agreement by secretly filming its meetings, needs the redacted names to surmise the scope of a requested preliminary injunction.
A temporary restraining order issued in July bars the center and its co-defendants from releasing video it obtained from the meetings, but the foundation is seeking an injunction to permanently ban disclosure of the video.
On Wednesday, the center and its co-defendants filed an emergency motion to stay the judge's discovery ruling with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
"The district court clearly erred when it overruled petitioners' assertion of the First Amendment privilege," the center stated in its 23-page emergency motion to stay the ruling. "The First Amendment protects against compelled disclosure of political or expressive association, especially the identities of an association's members, supporters, or donors."
Daleiden and his group contested the foundation's argument that it needs the names to ensure those individuals are bound by the requested injunction. The center says it could simply inform those with redacted names of the injunction and that the identities are not necessary to bind them to the court order.
In a Nov. 5 filing, the foundation asked the judge to reject arguments that the court "should simply let defendants police themselves."
The foundation suggested that prospect would be particularly unsettling given the fact that a week and a half after the court-restricted video was turned over to Congress in compliance with a subpoena, the video was released by Daleidan's "close friend," Charles C. Johnson, who runs the news blog Gotnews.com.
Johnson claims the video came from a source on Capitol Hill and not from Daleiden or anyone involved with the center. The center has filed a motion to quash a subpoena that would allow the foundation to question Johnson about the source of the leak.
The center says the Ninth Circuit should grant its motion to stay because it has been ordered to reveal the names by Dec. 4, and such a disclosure would cause irreparable harm to its supporters and to the First Amendment.
"Public interest favors granting a stay on the discovery order," the center stated in its motion to stay. "Courts have repeatedly emphasized the significant public interest in upholding First Amendment principles."
Since July, the center has released at least six videos of Planned Parenthood officials and others discussing the preservation and transfer of fetal tissue for research.
A study commissioned by Planned Parenthood last August found four of those videos were deceptively edited to imply wrongdoing and that the videos showed no evidence that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue for profit as alleged.
The center describes itself as a "group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances."
But the foundation has labeled the center's associates as law-breaking activists who invaded its members' privacy and breached signed confidentiality agreements.
A hearing on the foundation's amended motion for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for Dec. 18.
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