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Last appeal refused in 'wanted' poster case

By The Associated Press
05.02.06

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court yesterday ended a decade-long fight over the use by anti-abortion activists of "wanted" posters to identify clinic doctors.

Activists who created Wild West-style posters and the Nuremberg Files Web site targeting abortion doctors had been ordered to pay nearly $5 million in damages, and the Court refused without comment to take up their appeal in American Coalition of Life Activists v. Planned Parenthood.

The 12 activists and two anti-abortion groups were sued under a racketeering law and the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it illegal to incite violence and threaten abortion doctors.

A Portland, Ore., jury had first awarded several doctors and clinics $108 million in punitive damages, but that was reduced by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The anti-abortion groups appealed to the high court, saying that the amount should be reduced more. The Court yesterday refused to hear the appeal in American Coalition of Life Activists v. Planned Parenthood, 05-1083.

"This Court has long taught that public forum political speech merits the highest possible protection — including alleged threats," Edward White III, the attorney for the anti-abortion activists, said in a court filing.

White, who is trial counsel for the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., said yesterday that the case, which dates to 1995, "affects any group that is involved in robust debate, especially on controversial topics." He said anti-abortion activists no longer use protest posters because of concerns about lawsuits.

Lawyers for the clinics and doctors said that the latest appeal was a rehash of a similar appeal in the same case, which was rejected by the Supreme Court three years ago.

Maria Vullo, the lawyer for Planned Parenthood, said the Supreme Court had "finally put an end to re-litigation of these issues." She said her clients did not contest the reduction of the punitive damages to $4.73 million.

"This case has never been about the money. It's about protecting doctors' lives," she said.


Update
High court turns away 2 abortion-related cases
Justices for third time won't hear appeal in 'wanted' posters case; 'Choose Life' plates get boost when appeal from Arizona officials is refused. 10.06.08

Previous
Supreme Court turns away appeal from anti-abortion activists
Bush administration had asked justices to stay out of 'Nuremberg Files' case in which abortion foes were found to have targeted clinic doctors with 'wanted' posters. 06.27.03

Related

Feds seek removal of alleged threats on Pa. abortion foe's site

Blogger says he didn't write message suggesting former abortion provider be shot, but he did post it. 08.29.07

Federal judge orders removal of anti-abortion blog posts

Court grants injunction, bars man from publishing similar messages threatening abortion providers. 11.12.07

Federal judge shutters Wikileaks.org for posting bank documents
'This is a prior restraint in the most extreme fashion,' says Internet speech expert at Harvard Law School. 02.20.08

Will we trade our freedom for civility?
By Paul K. McMasters The United States Senate Rules Committee has been debating whether to create a special committee, task force or commission on American culture. The sponsors of the proposal want to inquire into whether Hollywood entertainment is creating a violent and profane culture that threatens the morality of America's youth. 09.27.99

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