The Department of Justice has been forced to hand over $120,000 for bringing a meritless abortion clinic access lawsuit against a clinic protester. This loss is one of multiple lost cases by the Department of Justice against abortion clinic protesters. The Special Litigation Section is the unit bringing the meritless cases. It was profiled in the PJ Media Every Single One Series as being headed by and filled with Leftist ideologues.
The Special Litigation Section sued Mary Sue Pine under the “FACE” Act, which guarantees access to abortion clinics. The complaint alleged Pine obstructed a car entering the clinic by standing in front of it. Hans von Spakovsky previously wrote about the scalding the DOJ received in the trial court.
Judge Kenneth Ryskamp was left to wonder at the near-total lack of evidence offered by the prosecution. The government was unable to show that Pine had in fact violated any provision of the FACE Act; prosecutors had no evidence that she had injured, intimidated, or interfered with the people she spoke to on a public sidewalk. It was not even clear that the people she was talking to were entering the abortion clinic.
In fact, as a routine business practice, the abortion clinic keeps a video surveillance record of its driveways and entrances. Those videotapes would have shown whether Pine was actually interfering with or obstructing any customers, but the clinic destroyed the tapes. Its sign-in sheets, which would have had the names of potential witnesses who went into the clinic the day Pine was there, were also destroyed.
DOJ lawyers apparently thought the case heinous enough to meet with the president of the abortion clinic the day after the incident. But they conceded that at no time during this meeting or after did they ask the clinic for the tapes or the sign-in sheets. Accordingly, DOJ entirely failed to obtain what the judge called “potentially critical evidence.”
The Court found a strange relationship between the DOJ lawyers and the abortion clinic. From the opinion:
The Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place. . . . The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and PWC, which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct.
The DOJ wasn’t so concerned when New Black Panthers were blocking the access with a weapon in a polling place in Philadelphia when Chris Hill tried to enter. Like so much with Eric Holder, the case against Pine was another example of using the power of the federal government to skewer political enemies. The New Black Panthers got a pass, while Mrs. Pine did not.
As a condition to dropping the appeal of this meritless lawsuit, Eric Holder’s Justice Department has agreed to pony up $120,000 in attorneys fees to Mrs. Pine. If you think the attorneys who brought the bogus case should have to pay instead of you, the taxpayers, you’re note alone. Let’s meet the lawyers who were on the complaint in the bogus case.
The first person responsible for litigating the meritless lawsuit is Section Chief Jonathan Smith. As described in the Every Single One series:
The Civil Rights Division brought in Jonathan Smith to take the helm of the Special Litigation Section. And what a pick! Indeed, when it comes to liberal activists, Mr. Smith is right out of central casting. He served for eight years as executive director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia and spent the four years prior to that as the executive director of the Public Justice Center. . . . He also spent another nine years as a staff attorney and executive director of the D.C. Prisoners’ Legal Services Project, advocating on behalf of criminals incarcerated in the nation’s capital. For local police departments that find themselves the subject of investigations by Mr. Smith’s shop, his biases will surely reinforce the notion that any expectation of neutrality in the Section’s probes is a pipe dream.
The deputy chief in charge of the litigation is Julie K. Abbate. She was arrested at a World Bank protest in 2003. Naturally, she claimed she was merely a bystander. (More on her saga here at PJ Media).
The tragedy of Holder’s war on peaceful abortion protesters is that the DOJ keeps losing these cases, over and over again. An abusurd FACE case, still pending, was brought against 79-year-old Richard Retta. The small man’s transgressions?
Retta stands outside abortion clinics “in a blue windbreaker, khaki pants belted high, and brown shoes with thick soles. He carr[ies] rosary beads and a packet of brochures filled with information about the dangers of abortion.” . . . The complaint is larded up with allegations that Retta “yells,” including such intimidating content as prayers or “don’t let them kill your baby.”
The complaint against Retta was brought by Aaron Zisser, another Leftist attorney featured in the Every Single One series:
Aaron Zisser: Mr. Zisser joined the Special Litigation Section after working as a staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, a branch of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. Before that, he was a fellow at “Human Rights First,” where he traveled to Guantanamo Bay to observe the prosecution of Osama Bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan, before a military tribunal. He wrote a series of blog posts for the liberal American Constitution Society criticizing the prosecution of detainees and suggesting that such terrorists were being deprived of their rights.
Before graduating to his criticism of U.S. terrorism policies, Mr. Zisser interned at the ACLU, the Southern Center for Human Rights, the Orleans Parish (La.) Indigent Defender Board, and the Santa Clara County (Calif.) Public Defender’s Office. A proud member of the American Constitution Society, he also participated in Georgetown Law School’s International Women’s Human Rights Clinic, where he advocated greater reproductive rights (read: abortion) for women. It should thus come as no surprise that, soon after arriving in the Civil Rights Division, Mr. Zisser made it a top priority to enforce the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (the “FACE Act”) against an elderly pro-life advocate. The president of government watchdog Judicial Watch charged that the case was politically motivated and that the “complaint seems like it was written more by Planned Parenthood than discerning professional lawyers.”
It’s one thing for the Department of Justice to enforce the FACE Act. It’s quite a different matter when Leftist ideologues sign pleadings without merit against private citizens. Obviously federal courts are catching on to the ideologically driven overreach by the DOJ Civil Rights Division. Wouldn’t it be nice if Zisser, Smith, and Abbate had to pay for their failures instead of the American taxpayers?