On Friday, Pro-Life group Center for Medical Progress, and its founder David Daleiden lost most of their challenge to a $2.4 million judgment which was taken out against them against them after a jury found they unlawfully filmed Planned Parenthood staffers.
A unanimous panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the defendants’ argument that their operation, which saw them creating a fictional organization and fake identities to gain access to Planned Parenthood conferences and secretly record meetings, was credible journalism and that they were acting under their First Amendment right.
Circuit Judge Ronald Gould said in his ruling that the right to free speech cannot hide illegal activities, such as forging signatures or breaking contracts.
He said the decision did not impede their journalistic speech but simply reminded them of “the established principle that the pursuit of journalism does not give a license to break laws of general applicability.”
The panel did overturn one part of the jury’s verdict, which found that the defendants violated the Federal Wiretap Act by secretly recording their conversations with Planned Parenthood staff. The panel noted that this law mostly permits recording by a party to a conversation. This section of the verdict worked out to less than $100,000 in damages.
Gould was joined by Circuit Judge Mary Murguia and U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal of Wyoming, in passing the ruling.
“We believe the ruling is wrong and are evaluating further options,” said Heather Hacker of Hacker Stephens, who is part of the legal team for Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress.
Planned Parenthood Vice President Helene Krasnoff celebrated the outcome, saying: “We are thrilled with today’s ruling.”
The Center for Medical Progress released videos in 2015 claiming that Planned Parenthood employees were attempting to illegally sell fetal tissue.
While pro-life groups have released videos of Planned Parenthood employees reportedly discussing this, they have failed to prove any wrongdoing in court. No investigation has been opened into their claims.
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