Judge To Rule on Anti-SLAPP Motion by Sept. 3

Jason Craddock (from left), Eric Scheidler, Tom Brejcha and Peter Breen at Kane County Court, August 22UPDATE: An editorial agreeing with our side of this case was published in the Beacon News on Tuesday, August 26. You can read the editorial here. Let’s hope the Judge agrees.

Last Friday I was joined by more than sixty pro-lifers for a critical hearing in the libel case I’ve brought against Planned Parenthood and Steve Trombley for declaring that those leading the opposition to their Aurora facility “have a well-documented history of advocating violence”. Trombley repeated these lies in a September 5, 2007 letter to the City Council [PDF] [PDF] and a September 10, 2007 full-page ad in the Aurora Beacon [PDF]. I filed my libel suit on October1, 2007, after Trombley refused to recant his false, defamatory statements. Back in the spring, Trombley and his lawyers filed a “Motion to Dismiss” my libel suit on the basis of the Citizen Participation Act. This new law, passed just less than a year ago, is designed to give the courts a way to throw out a “SLAPP”—a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Political Participation”, meant to retaliate against someone for speaking out to the government. Friday’s hearing was on this Motion to Dismiss, and Judge Judith Brawka began by saying that she would not rule from the bench that day, but rather issue a written ruling by September 3. I considered this good news, indicating that she is going to seriously consider the implications of her ruling. In their argument before the court, Trombley’s attorneys declared that the anti-SLAPP law gives him blanket immunity from liability for defamation, and that freedom of speech itself is at stake in Illinois if I’m allowed to go forward with my libel suit. Trombley is claiming, in effect, that I filed this libel suit not to clear my good name after he spread lies about my father and our organization, the Pro-Life Action League, but to silence his freedom of speech. What’s particularly ironic is that 18 other plaintiffs—other community leaders in the fight against Planned Parenthood—elected to get out of the suit, since they’d be exposed to massive legal fees if Trombley’s Motion succeeds. In the hands of Planned Parenthood, this law has worked precisely opposite to its intended purpose of preventing powerful entities from scaring people away from appealing to the government.

Planned Parenthood’s interpretation of this law would unleash a train of horrors.

—Attorney Tom Brejcha

As my lead attorney Tom Brejcha argued before the judge, Planned Parenthood’s reading of the anti-SLAPP law would effectively turn it into a “License to Lie”. As long as you could somehow construe a statement—a letter, a radio or TV spot, a newspaper ad—as intended to procure favorable government action, you can say anything you want, including defaming other people with known falsehoods. The hearing ran over two and a half hours, and at the end of it Judge Brawka thanked all the attorneys for an “enlightening” hearing. For more summary on the hearing, I recommend reading Dan Campagna’s August 23 article in the Aurora Beacon. For my part, I want to thank Tom Brejcha and his assitants, Peter Breen and Jason Craddock, who also argued motions on ancillary issues Friday. They’ve put a tremendous amount into this effort to defend the good name of the pro-lifers of the Fox Valley. Thanks also to all who came for the hearing on Friday and the hundreds more who offered prayers from afar. Please continue pray over the coming days that Judge Judith Brawka will render a just decision next week.

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