Now v. Scheidler
In 1986, the National Organization for Women and two abortion clinics filed a complaint in Federal Court alleging violations of the Sherman-Clayton anti-trust laws against Joseph Scheidler, the Pro-Life Action League and several other defendants. Thus began the landmark NOW v. Scheidler case, which ultimately was won by the pro-life defendants.
NOW v. Scheidler is a significant case not only because it involves the issue of freedom of protest but because it involves the thorny Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the scope of which has extended far beyond the Congress’ original target of organized crime.
The case has been to the Supreme Court three times. In 1994, a 9-0 decision allowed the case to go forward to trial as a civil RICO action. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 to overturn the District Court jury’s 1998 guilty finding against Scheidler and his co-defendants. And in 2006, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled again in favor of Scheidler, putting to rest an effort by NOW to keep the case alive in the Seventh Circuit.
In May 2007, over a year after the Supreme Court ruling, District Judge David Coar signed the final judgment, reversing his 1999 Judgment and vacating the nationwide injunction in effect since July 16, 1999.
On April 29, 2014, the Seventh Circuit ruled decisively that Plaintiffs must cover the costs that had been awarded by Judge Coar in May of 2013 to the Thomas More Society as a result of the lawsuit from the National Organization for Women and the abortion clinics that sued Scheidler in 1986. The Seventh Circuit closed its decision in favor of the pro-life defendants by saying “This litigation has lasted far too long. At last it is over.”
Read the Seventh Circuit’s final decision here.