A federal court has sided with the undercover journalist who is being sued by taxpayer-funded University of Washington’s lab workers and abortion facility staff trying to hide their identifying information from the public.
Two years ago, David Daleiden’s undercover work with the Center for Medical Progress exposed the alleged activities of Planned Parenthood and its partners in the biomedical procurement industry. His videos led to extensive congressional investigations into illegal profiteering from the sales of aborted baby body parts.
Daleiden’s attorneys at the Thomas More Society won an appeal Monday against a group of University of Washington lab and abortion facility staff – who have identified themselves as Jane Does and John Does – seeking to hide more of their identifying information in public documents that describe their work and activities surrounding fetal tissue procurement and transfer in the school’s taxpayer funded Birth Defects Research Laboratory.
“This case began when our client requested public records from the University of Washington about its publicly funded research lab,” stated Thomas More Society Special Counsel Peter Breen, who argued the appeal before a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Breen continued in a statement:
Mr. Daleiden’s broad-ranging investigation into the trafficking of aborted fetal remains led him to look into the University of Washington’s fetal tissue research and acquisition practices. He asked that names and personal contact info be redacted from the records, but the abortion advocates and government employees pressed for full censorship, even of entity names, job titles, and departments within the university. Such heavy redactions render these public documents useless for investigative purposes.
According to a press release from Thomas More Society, the Washington state Public Records Act requires the full disclosure of information, but a lower court had ordered heavy redactions, citing the First Amendment.
The panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has now reversed that decision, however, unanimously deciding that the lower U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, in Seattle, had not made a “clear showing” of the facts and law consistent with the claim that the U.S. Constitution requires heavy censoring of these public records.
The panel’s decision sends the case back to the lower District Court, which must now specify and justify its decision.
The school’s employees filed its lawsuit in August of 2016, claiming they “would likely face threats, harassment, and violence” if the records were disclosed, even with their names and personal contact information redacted.
Senior Circuit Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima, and Circuit Judges Jacqueline H. Nguyen and M. Margaret McKeown, reversed the decision by the District Court and criticized the lower court for misapplying case law in granting a preliminary injunction.
“The Court of Appeals, by reversing this decision and remanding this case back to District Court, has prevented a serious threat to the public’s right to know how their tax dollars are being spent,” added Breen.