A federal judge said Wednesday he intends to decisively cut back a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood against the undercover citizen journalists who documented the organization’s alleged sales of aborted baby body parts for profit.
In what was a surprising victory for the First Amendment rights of the citizen journalists, Judge William Orrick III of U.S. District Court in San Francisco, delivered a tentative ruling, which Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the producer of the videos, said Orrick instructed should be treated as substantially final.
▶️ 1st Amendment victory for citizen journalists
▶️ up to $20 Million charges cut back to less than $100k
▶️ No evidence of defamation or "violence"https://t.co/Kvnd6K86ge
— CMP (@CtrMedProgress) July 18, 2019
In his ruling, Orrick wrote he was “inclined to exclude from the case all damages that stem from third parties’ reactions to the release of the video recordings as impermissible damages barred by the First Amendment absent a defamation claim.”
Though the lawsuit will move ahead on September 30, Orrick’s ruling cuts Planned Parenthood’s claim from over $20 million in damages to less than $100,000 due to the abortion vendor’s failure to provide evidence to support it.
The judge retained only “damages for investigating intrusions” into Planned Parenthood’s space, and “improvements to access-security measures for conferences and facilities,” and some other nominal damages.
“Now that all the facts, evidence, and testimony are in, even Planned Parenthood’s favorite judge refuses to buy into the abortion giant’s fake news and lies about the honest motives and protected speech of pro-life citizen journalists,” CMP project lead David Daleiden said in a statement. “Planned Parenthood is a government-sponsored crime syndicate selling baby body parts like widgets on an assembly line and should only appear in federal court as a criminal defendant.”
Orrick has been the subject of controversy as he presided over the case, during which he imposed a gag order on CMP regarding the online publication of the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and Planned Parenthood video footage. Daleiden and his attorneys claimed the order violated their First Amendment rights.
CMP had requested Orrick’s disqualification “on the grounds that there is evidence of bias in favor of the plaintiff and prejudice against the defendants.”
Evidence uncovered by Daleiden and his attorneys included that the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center – an entity that is in partnership with a Planned Parenthood affiliate, a member of the NAF – had named Orrick as an emeritus member of its board.
In addition, Orrick’s wife’s Facebook account was found to have included posted public comments – along with a photo of her and her husband – that indicate support for Planned Parenthood and criticism of Daleiden and CMP.
Planned Parenthood has yet to be prosecuted for any of the allegations of profiting from the sales of the body parts of babies aborted in its clinics.
In June, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and his predecessor Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), current chairman of the Committee on Finance, wrote to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray, seeking an update on the federal investigation that was supposedly launched in 2017 into the allegations raised, in part, through the video documentation by CMP.
The senators asked Barr and Wray to respond to their inquiry no later than July 2.
The case is Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. The Center for Medical Progress, No. 3:16-cv-00236-WHO, in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California.