Analysis Law and Policy

Group Behind Planned Parenthood Smear Videos Publishes Private Address of Judge

Imani Gandy

The judge is overseeing lawsuits relating to the smear campaign the Center for Medical Progress launched in the summer of 2015, alleging as part of its "Human Capital Project" that Planned Parenthood employees were unlawfully profiting from fetal tissue donation and violating the “partial-birth abortion” ban.

U.S. Marshals are monitoring whether U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick—the judge handling the controversial lawsuits filed by the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and Planned Parenthood against the anti-choice front group Center for Medical Progress (CMP)—receives any threats in the coming months.

That’s because documents that CMP and its leader, David Daleiden, filed in court last week disclosed the judge’s private home address.

The lawsuits relate to the smear campaign that Daleiden launched in the summer of 2015, alleging as part of CMP’s “Human Capital Project” that Planned Parenthood employees were unlawfully profiting from fetal tissue donation and violating the “partial-birth abortion” ban. To this day, none of the multiple state and federal investigations that followed have found any wrongdoing on the reproductive health-care organization’s part.

The release of those videos nevertheless sparked a wave of violence against abortion providers and clinics as well as the providers named in the videos. According to NAF court filings, incidents of harassment against Planned Parenthood clinics increased ninefold in July 2015, as compared to reported incidents the month before. Reported incidents of harassment were even more numerous in August.

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In September of that year, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) warned that there would be “an uptick in attacks on reproductive health-care facilities.” And, according to CBS News, FBI investigators have tied the uptick in violence directly to CMP’s smear campaign.

That wave of violence led to the arrest Robert Lewis Dear Jr. in November 2015 for opening fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility, where one of the providers featured in the videos was a staff member. That siege left three dead. Dear told investigating officers he was “a warrior for the babies” because Planned Parenthood was “selling baby parts.

In part because of this uptick in violence, Judge Orrick issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking Daleiden and CMP from releasing any footage or information obtained at NAF’s private events in late July 2015. In February 2016, Orrick converted that TRO into a preliminary injunction. In his scathing opinion, he said that the defendants had “engaged in repeated instances of fraud” and that the products of the Human Capital Project “thus far have not been pieces of journalistic integrity, but misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions.”

Daleiden has been fighting the TRO and subsequent preliminary injunction in court for two years. After unsuccessful appeals in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Daleiden’s latest salvo filed last week is an attempt to disqualify Judge Orrick from handling the case due to alleged bias in favor of Planned Parenthood. Daleiden claims that Orrick’s ties to a nonprofit organization called Good Samaritan Family Resource Center (GSFRC), which has a Planned Parenthood clinic inside its premises, along with Orrick’s wife’s vocal support for Planned Parenthood on social media, require Orrick’s disqualification from the NAF and Planned Parenthood lawsuits. That motion has been assigned to another judge for hearing.

In connection with his motion, Daleiden filed a 185-page, publicly available affidavit that included a document listing the names and addresses of donors to the GSFRC. Judge William Orrick—along with his address—is listed among them.

Given the violent response to the release of the Planned Parenthood employees’ names, the fact that Daleiden’s lawyers neglected to file the donor list under seal—so it could not be accessed by the public—is profoundly irresponsible.

Meanwhile, Daleiden is also facing a contempt of court motion resulting from his release of additional video footage last month— footage that almost certainly violated Orrick’s preliminary injunction order. Attorney Derek Foran, NAF’s counsel, said Daleiden’s motion to disqualify is a distraction: “a transparent attempt to put the brakes on the contempt proceedings,” he told the Recorder.

“The motion is baseless and was filed for strategic purposes,” he added. Disqualifying Orrick would not remove the contempt of court motion.

Frank Conroy, a spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals—the agency responsible for protecting federal judges—said it didn’t appear as if Daleiden had broken any laws by disclosing the list. Conroy confirmed to the Recorder that the Marshals had been made aware of the disclosure and were monitoring “inappropriate communications” to Orrick.

“We continually monitor inappropriate communication to all judges, and that includes Judge Orrick,” Conroy said.

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