U. S. Supreme Court To Review NOW v. Scheidler

Joe at the Supreme Court

Joe Scheidler outside the Supreme Court

On Tuesday morning, April 22, the Pro-Life Action League staff was in the midst of morning prayers when the phone rang in the office outside the St. Joseph chapel. Ann Scheidler went out to answer the call. It was Jerry Horn of Priests for Life with enthusiastic congratulations. He had just read an Associated Press story reporting that the United States Supreme Court had granted certiorari in our RICO case, NOW v. Scheidler. About a minute later our Supreme Court attorney, Alan Untereiner called with the same news.

The rest of the PLAL staff was still in the chapel and was just finishing the Regina Caeli “Alleluia,” when Ann walked back in. She said, “You might want to add another ‘alleluia.’ We got cert.'”

That news was worth a whole chorus of “alleluias.” On the same day the Court rejected over three hundred fifty requests for certiorari. They only accept about 2% of the cases that petition the Supreme Court for cert. We were certain that we had excellent arguments, but we know that the deciding factor was the millions of prayers that have been offered for this cause.

Judith Dasse, a Chicago nurse and pro-life activist, organized a campaign of a thousand rosaries, Fr. Dudley Day of the Institute for Religious Life recruited several convents of pious nuns to pray and fast, the loyal supporters of the Pro-Life Action League have prayed and dedicated Masses for the cause that this case would be accepted by the Supreme Court.

There were three issues in our Petition to the Supreme Court:

  1. Whether a private party (NOW and the abortion clinics) is entitled to a federal injunction;
  2. Whether blocking an entrance to an abortion clinic or delaying a woman’s access to a clinic is “extortion” under the Hobbs Act;
  3. Whether protesters first amendment rights are abrogated by the use of RICO to stop their demonstrations.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the first two arguments, but the issue of pro-lifers’ first amendment rights to protest is actually part of the Hobbs Act issue.

The League’s lawyers filed a detailed brief on the merits of the case with the Supreme Court on July 12, 2002. Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society, and lead attorney in the case, worked with Alan Untereiner to craft the most persuasive arguments for the Court to reject the federal injunction issued by Judge David Coar in Chicago and to examine the use of RICO and the definition of “extortion” that the District Court adopted in order to find the pro-life activists guilty of racketeering.

The Supreme Court is in recess for the summer months, so an oral argument date will come in the fall, 2002 term. So, although the grant of certiorari is an occasion for celebration, there is still a powerful need for prayers. If we have an ultimate victory at the Supreme Court you will be invited to a huge celebration and rally for life as a the Pro-Life Action League leads “America Back to Life.” Stay tuned for breaking news!

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