Thomas More Society Continues to Defend The Rights of Sidewalk Counselors

Martin Cannon, Thomas More Society attorney, has been busy defending sidewalk counselors across the country, including defending the rights of sidewalk counselors from New Mexico, Connecticut, Texas, South Dakota, Kansas, Alabama and Maryland:

• Albuquerque, New Mexico: A Planned Parenthood official informed sidewalk counselors that it was “illegal” for sidewalk counselors to reach over the clinic fence for the purpose of handing information to a woman who reached out for the information. Thomas More Society carefully examined the site and advised the sidewalk counselors on how to handle this situation in the future.

• Stamford, Connecticut: Sidewalk counselors were told by local police that each counselor must wear a large badge identifying herself as pro-life before approaching prospective listeners. The counselors were also threatened with arrest if the driver of a vehicle passing the clinic or pulling into the clinic parking lot stopped her vehicle to talk to a counselor. After examining federal precedent and Connecticut law, attorney, Martin Cannon, traveled to Stamford and met with sidewalk counselors. Cannon personally viewed the clinic site in question and held a meeting with the Stamford police chief and his top two deputies to correct the problem. The law enforcement officers agreed with the Thomas More Society.  Thomas More Society’s clients stated Cannon’s visit, “was a great help” as “no further incidents have been reported since you met with local officials.”

• Lewisville, Texas: Sidewalk counselors were advised by police that stepping onto the clinic entrances where they crossed the public sidewalk was forbidden. Thomas More Society examined the site, reviewed local laws, and advised the clients of their clear right of use to the sidewalk.

• Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Similar to the case in Texas, the sidewalk counselors in Sioux Falls were informed by the police that they were not allowed to signal or wave to people driving by to stop their vehicles and were not allowed to approach cars stopped in the ‘public right-of-way’ at the clinic entrance to talk to the sidewalk counselors. After examining federal precedent and   South Dakota law and viewing the clinic site, attorney Martin Cannon, contacted the police captain in charge of the area and advised him of the sidewalk counselors’  right to the use of the public property at the clinic entrances. There have been no further reports of problems at that site.

• Wichita, Kansas: Thomas More Society client, David Schmidt, is an elderly sidewalk counselor who is almost entirely blind. A clinic security guard approached Schmidt’s sign, which had been positioned on the ground near Schmidt, and announced his intention to take the sign. Schmidt physically resisted the guard’s effort and was charged with assault. Thomas More Society has been actively defending Schmidt and will try the case before a Kansas jury beginning July 24, 2017.

Also in Wichita, Kansas, abortionist Julie Burkhart obtained a temporary protection order against pro-life pastor Mark Holick. Burkhart sought to extend the protection order for two years, but when called upon to prove the allegations upon which she based the requested protection order, she abruptly dismissed her request for the protection order. Thomas More Society is representing Pastor Holick to recover his damages and attorney fees from Burkhart in order to send the message that the protection order process cannot be abused without consequence. In addition to Burkhart’s local attorneys, Burkhart has hired a high powered Washington law firm to defend her case. Thomas More Society has previously defeated Burkhart’s attorneys’ efforts to have the case thrown out and will represent Pastor Holick at a jury trial in federal court.

• Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Thomas More Society client, Ellen Herman, has been charged with “solicitation”  approaching a car while standing on the public right-of-way and handing the occupant a pro-life pamphlet. Attorney Martin Cannon traveled to Tuscaloosa to meet with the client and to examine the location. Along with local counsel, Cannon then met with the city attorney to discuss the matter.  The city attorney continues to maintain the prosecution of Herman is legitimate. Thomas More Society will defend Herman in court on July 11, 2017, and plans to argue a motion to dismiss on constitutional grounds at that time.

• Baltimore, Maryland: Sidewalk counselors in the city of Baltimore are being instructed by the police that they must stay ten feet away from the clinic entrance despite the fact that the entrance opens directly onto the public right-of-way.  Baltimore, however, has not adopted a bubble zone ordinance. Thomas More Society is currently communicating with the Baltimore authorities in an effort to address this issue.