Facing Sanctions, Abortion Foe Seeks to Disqualify Judge

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Facing contempt charges for releasing banned videos of an abortion trade group’s meeting, anti-abortion activist David Daleiden moved to disqualify a federal judge that has threatened to slap him with sanctions for violating a court order.

In a motion filed late Wednesday night, Daleiden argued U.S. District Judge William Orrick III is unfit to oversee the case in the Northern District of California because he previously served as a board member of a Planned Parenthood-affiliated health clinic in San Francisco. Daleiden also claims Orrick’s wife made public comments “supportive of Planned Parenthood” and critical of Daleiden’s anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress.

Derek Foran, an attorney representing the National Abortion Federation, which sued Daleiden and his group to stop him from publicizing secret videos of its meeting, called the disqualification motion “an affront to the court.”

“It’s a frivolous motion designed as a last-ditch effort to prevent the court from proceeding with the contempt hearing next week,” Foran said in an interview, adding the judge has “bent over backwards” to be fair to the defendants throughout the case.

But Daleiden says Orrick has a “longstanding relationship” with the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, a health clinic that serves immigrants in San Francisco. Orrick served as a board member of the organization until 1999, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire cited in Daleiden’s motion.

The abortion foe says he learned in May 2017 that Orrick also served as secretary of Good Samaritan in 2001 when it entered into a “key partnership” with Planned Parenthood, donating space for the nation’s largest abortion provider to host a clinic and a receptionist.

Daleiden claims Orrick is still publicly associated with the Planned Parenthood-affiliated organization because it lists him as a “board member emeritus” on its website.

“Judge Orrick did not disclose his close and long-standing relationship with an organization that houses a facility and hosts Planned Parenthood staff, whom NAF claims are in physical danger from ‘antiabortion extremists’ incited by defendants,” Daleiden states in his 14-page motion.

The anti-abortion activist further contends that comments Orrick made during a May 25 hearing show his bias against Daleiden. The judge stated that Daleiden would be “well advised . . . that he is obligated to follow the Court’s orders not try to skate around them and cause real harm to human beings.”

The implication that Daleiden is seeking to “cause real harm to human beings” revealed the judge’s prejudice and belief that Daleiden is “an evil person who intentionally seeks to harm others,” Daleiden argues in his motion.

Daleiden also claims that Orrick’s wife added an “I stand with Planned Parenthood” stamp on her Facebook profile picture in 2015 and “liked” Facebook posts by the National Abortion Rights Action League and “Keep America Pro-Choice,” which publicly opposed Daleiden and his group.

“There is considerably more than the ‘slightest chance’ that Judge Orrick’s associations and the publicly-held opinions of his wife, expressed together with a profile photo featuring not only Mrs. Orrick but also Judge Orrick, ‘could taint the public’s perception of the fairness of the outcome,’” Daleiden concludes in his motion to disqualify the judge.

The National Abortion Federation first sued Daleiden and his group in July 2015, claiming the defendants posed as a fake biomedical company to infiltrate and secretly record a 2014 annual meeting, despite having signed confidentiality agreements. Orrick immediately issued a temporary restraining order barring publication of the secret recordings.

In February 2016, Orrick granted a permanent injunction banning disclosure of the videos. Orrick found the safety and privacy of the federation’s members outweighed the center’s First Amendment right to disclose information obtained under false pretenses. The Ninth Circuit upheld his ruling in March.

Last month, Daleiden’s attorneys posted links to the banned videos along with the names of secretly taped abortion providers on their website. The names and videos were presented as evidence to support Daleiden’s challenge against 15 felony charges he faces in San Francisco Superior Court for a conspiracy to invade privacy.

Orrick responded by issuing an order to show cause why Daleiden and his attorneys, Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira, should not be held in contempt of court.

In a court filing submitted last week, the National Abortion Federation urged Orrick to sanction Daleiden and his attorneys for “willful violations” and to refer them to the U.S. Attorney for criminal prosecution.

The disclosure of the banned videos and names of abortion providers has prompted a security crisis for the federation, according to its June 1 response to Orrick’s order to show cause.

“[The federation] is now witnessing in real time a similar spike in incidents of harassment and intimidation that presaged the murders at a NAF-member clinic in Colorado,” the federation stated in its filing, referring to the November 2015 shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs that killed three people and injured nine.

“NAF’s security staff and senior members of the organization have been diverted to deal with the latest crisis to protect their members,” the federation continued. “The safety risk to NAF’s members is real and ongoing.”

A hearing on the order to show cause why Daleiden and his attorneys should not be held in contempt was scheduled for June 14. However, Orrick issued an order on Thursday saying he will “issue no further decisions in this case” until the motion for disqualification is decided by a randomly assigned judge.

Orrick said he would follow the rules and have the motion referred to another judge, even though he has concerns about whether the timing of the motion’s filing is “simply an attempt to delay the resolution” of the contempt charges, especially since it was filed “over two years after the case had been pending before me and four court days before an Order To Show Cause Re Contempt hearing.”

Daleiden’s attorneys Catherine Short and Charles LiMandri did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment Thursday morning.

 

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