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Federal Appeals Court Orders Formal Responses to Petition that Judge Orrick Step Down in Abortion Lawsuits

by | Mar 2, 2018

Thomas More Society and David Daleiden Sought “Writ of Mandamus” for Removal of Allegedly Biased Judge

Editor’s note. This update comes from the Thomas More Society.

David Daleiden

(March 2, 2018 – San Francisco, California)–Last December 2017, the legal team for undercover citizen journalist David Daleiden, who exposed the abortion industry’s role in the trafficking of aborted baby body parts, filed a petition for an “extraordinary writ of mandamus” in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The petition asked that the appellate court order that William Orrick, a San Francisco federal judge, step down from presiding over two lawsuits, owing to an apparent conflict of interest and other facts creating the appearance of bias.

On Wednesday, February 28th, a three-judge “motions panel” ruled that Daleiden’s “petition for writ of mandamus raises issues that warrant an answer.” The panel ordered that the abortion groups suing Daleiden in Judge Orrick’s courtroom, namely, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (“PPFA”), its many California-based affiliates as well as others, and the National Abortion Federation (“NAF”), file answers to the mandamus petition within 14 days.

The panel further directed that in their answers, the abortion groups “shall address the basis for the district court’s denial of [Daleiden’s] motion for disqualification of Judge William H. Orrick under 28 U.S.C. Secs. 144, 455(a) and 455(b)(1).” And the panel specified that, “in particular,” the answers [shall] address Judge Orrick’s relationship with Good Samaritan Family Resource Center.”

The three-judge panel is comprised of Senior Circuit Judge William C. Canby, Jr., Senior Circuit Judge Stephen S. Trott, and Circuit Judge Paul J. Watford.

They added in their terse order that Judge Orrick might also “address the petition if [he] so desires,” either by filing an answer in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals or by issuing an order and serving a copy on the appellate court. Daleiden is to file a reply in 5 days after service of the answers, and all relevant papers “shall be referred to the next available motions panel.”

The order was to be served not only on Judge Orrick, but also on District Judge James Donato, to whom Judge Orrick had referred Daleiden’s initial motions for disqualification and who denied both of them.

Peter Breen, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, explained, “We welcome this ruling by the 9th Circuit panel as we were asking the court to order Judge Orrick to do what he should have done preemptively on his own…that is, recuse himself and step aside from presiding over a case in which he has had a direct, personal, and decades-long relationship with an organization whose property and employees were alleged by the abortion provider plaintiffs to be endangered by our client’s citizen journalism, namely, the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center (GSFRC), of which he was a founder and longtime officer and director, and which houses one of the plaintiff PPFA affiliate’s facilities.”

Breen continued, “This relationship was established during Judge Orrick’s leadership tenure on the board, and GSFRC continues in an active joint venture with this plaintiff PPFA affiliate. At the same time, Judge Orrick has been held out to the public as serving as an Emeritus Board Member of GSFRC. This relationship was not discussed to the parties, nor did Judge Orrick disclose its full extent or duration to the U.S. Senate during his confirmation process.”

Other facts were also cited as having created the appearance of bias.

Judge Orrick issued a gag order, which Daleiden is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down as an illicit “prior restraint” on free speech, censoring Daleiden’s remaining video footage taken at NAF annual meetings in 2015 and 2016. On Monday, February 26th, NAF’s counsel filed its opposition to the Supreme Court hearing the appeal. Earlier, NAF had formally waived its right to respond, but the justices ordered that it respond.

A copy of the filed petition for a writ of mandamus in Planned Parenthood et al v. the Center for Medical Progress et al and National Abortion Federation v. the Center of Medical Progress et al is available here.

Categories: Judicial