Appellate Ruling Hurdles Final Obstacle Before Lawsuit Over Lawless Mass Arrests, “Strip Searches,” Jailing and Police Abuse of “Truth Tour” Participants Goes to Trial in Baltimore.
January 13, 2011—Yesterday, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals roundly rejected an appeal taken by defendant police officers in a suit brought by Defend Life, a Maryland pro-life activist group, its leader, Jack Ames, and many participants in a “truth tour” sponsored by the group in August, 2008, granting a motion to dismiss the appeal filed by Thomas More Society’s special counsel, Patrick Gillen, who is also an Assistant Professor of Law at Ave Maria Law School in Naples, Florida.
Ames and Defend Life filed the lawsuit last year, complaining that Maryland State Police, assisted by Harford County and Bel Air city officials, committed lawless arrests and jailing of protesters, including outrageous “strip searches” of several college girls who had joined other pro-lifers in peaceably demonstrating against abortion on the public right of way in Harford County, Maryland, on the last day of the summer, 2008, “truth tour”—an event staged annually by Ames and Defend Life for more than a decade over a couple of weeks each summer at sites all over Maryland and in nearby states and the District of Columbia. Case Documents After the Jump
Recently, one defendant, Harford County, agreed to settle with most of the pro-lifers on undisclosed terms. But the case remains pending against other defendants, including the Superintendent of the Maryland State Police, several state police troopers, the Town of Bel Air, and others.
Defend Life’s claim against Harford County is also still pending. Motions to dismiss the entire lawsuit filed by the Town of Bel Air, Bel Air police officers, the Maryland State Police Superintendent and state police troopers were denied last May, 2010, after which some of the defendants filed an immediate appeal, arguing that police acted in good faith and were therefore immune from suit.
That appeal was just dismissed, on the ground that—as Thomas More Society had argued—material questions of fact were presented as to whether the police defendants acted in good faith.
Indeed, plaintiffs already adduced compelling evidence of bad faith, including legally baseless arrests followed by failure to prosecute belated criminal charges, needless strip searches of fully peaceable, nonviolent demonstrators, and 911 tapes and police recordings showing the police enforced a “heckler’s veto” (acting on phone calls objecting to the content of protest signs) in making the arrests, and showing deep police bias (“…they can sit in a cell for an hour … or three or four and rot”).
Tom Brejcha, chief counsel at Thomas More Society, said, “This dismissal of the defendants’ last groundless appeal paves the way for our continuing to press this case until justice is done, finally and completely.”
The deposition of Jack Ames is set to proceed on January 25, 2011, after which the case should proceed to jury trial. Thomas More Society is working with other lawyers in the case, including the Alliance Defense Fund, Chris Ferrara of American Catholic Lawyers Ass’n, and Matt Paavola, of Baltimore, former president of Maryland’s Christian Legal Society.
- Victory for pro-life protestors strip-searched by Troopers—Life Site News
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