Justice Delayed in NOW v. Scheidler Hearings

Tom, Ann and Joe after hearing

Attorney Tom Brejcha (left) with Ann and Joe Scheidler after the June 8 hearing in Chicago

Joe Scheidler went to Federal Court the morning of June 8 expecting to watch Judge David Coar sign a judgment in his favor as directed by the United States Supreme Court in their Opinion handed down February 28, 2006—thus ending the landmark NOW v. Scheidler lawsuit one day before the twentieth anniversary of its original 1986 filing. But once again NOW’s attorney Fay Clayton pulled off another delay.

Claiming she had had no time to consider the simple Judgment that would put an end to the twenty-year-old lawsuit, Clayton said she had objections to some of the elements of the Judgment. She said she wanted to make sure that the Settlement Injunction NOW had secured against Randall Terry would continue in effect in spite of the Supreme Court’s finding that there had never been a RICO violation.

Judge Coar Bows to Clayton’s Delay

Although Judge Coar said he was ready to sign the Judgment drafted by Tom Brejcha, Scheidler’s attorney, and although Brejcha urged him to do so, Coar bowed to Clayton’s wishes and continued the case for two weeks, until June 22. It remains to be seen what further shenanigans Clayton may try to pull on that date.

However, Clayton could find no plausible reason to object to releasing the remainder of the bond, which consisted of the Scheidler home. Judge Coar signed the release document, returning ownership and control of the north side Chicago home to the Scheidlers.

Clayton’s Stall Tactics

Scheidler and his legal team appeared again before federal district Judge David Coar on June 22 hoping against hope that judgement would finally be entered, ending the case. Though disappointed, they were not surprised when the hearing yielded nothing but delay.

Clayton is disputing several issues, despite her decisive 2003 and 2006 defeats in the Supreme Court. Clayton insists that her abortion clinic clients need not be informed when the court’s 1999 injunction is no longer in force, going so far as to claim that they are no longer a “class” now that the suit they brought has failed. She is also refusing to indicate which abortion clinics she represents; Scheidler has never learned which clinics opted out of the class before the 1997 trial.

Also disputed is how the final judgement will affect Randal Terry’s 1997 settlement with NOW. Since the 2003 and 2006 Supreme Court decisions gutted NOW’s case, the pro-life attorneys are arguing that the Terry settlement must now be set aside, while Clayton is seeking to keep it in force.

Case Remains in Limbo

At the June 22 hearing, Judge Coar said he would take all of these matters under advisement, but set no firm date for any further hearings on the case. At this point, NOW’s strategy seems to be to delay settlement of the case at all costs, using whatever stall tactics Clayton can contrive.

Attorneys for Scheidler will return to Judge Coar’s courtroom in early 2007 to petition for final judgment to be entered, ending the case, now well into its twenty-first year.

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