Ruling in Scheidler v. Trombley

Kane County CourthouseIf all you read was the Beacon News headline this morning, you may have gotten the wrong idea about what happened in the hearing in the Scheidler v. Trombley libel case yesterday. Their headline read “Libel suit against Planned Parenthood is dismissed”. What actually happened was that Judge Judith Brawka allowed Planned Parenthood’s Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) motion against us, thus dismissing the charges in our previous complaint. However, she allowed us to file four new charges based on evidence our attorneys uncovered in the discovery process. For all the back story on this case, Eric Scheidler’s blog post from before the last hearing will get you up to speed. In the process of discovery, our attorneys, Tom Brejcha, Peter Breen, and Jason Craddock of the Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center, found several new documents that we hadn’t seen before. These were ads and press releases that contained no appeal to government whatsoever. The judge’s ruling [PDF] hinged on the Illinois Citizens Participation Act (CPA) whichs exist to keep giant corporations with limitless resources from using the legal system to intimidate private citizens or grassroots coalitions trying to appeal to government legitimately. These new charges, however, deal with items which in no way seek government action of any kind. They are statements Steve Trombley knew to be false, made to defame pro-lifers pure and simple. Unless she simply wants to side with Planned Parenthood for ideological reasons, she will have to admit that these statements are truly libelous. The most outrageous thing about Judge Brawka’s ruling yesterday is that nothing in it addressed the merits of our case. You would think that a ruling in a libel suit would have something to do with whether the accused made statements he knew to be false about the plaintiff, but there wasn’t a word about it. Her only concern was whether or not Steve Trombley was pursuing a favorable outcome from the government of the City of Aurora when the ads and letter were published. Unfortunately, her utter disregard for Steve Trombley’s dishonesty and for the good name of the Pro-Life Action League and Eric Scheidler doesn’t simply mean that Planned Parenthood gets away with libel. It also means that the Pro-Life Action League and Eric Scheidler will be responsible for Planned Parenthood’s legal fees up to this point in the trial. So we see the incredible irony of the situation: The multi-million dollar corporation is using the Citizen’s Participation Act to intimidate the small non-profit public intrest group from pursuing favorable government action by holding them responsible for their high-priced attorneys’ fees. But we won’t let them win that easily. Our attorneys will be pushing these new charges to the end of the road, and even if Judge Brawka refuses to see their merit, they will appeal as far up as they have to go to get justice. Because this isn’t simply about clearing the Scheidler name. This is about the right of every American to be protected from lies and distortions of their good name, which Proverbs tells us is worth more than gold. This is about keeping Illinois politics from devolving into a cesspool of muckraking and mudslinging. This is about the truth, which Planned Parenthood hates with a passion. Please continue to keep Eric, the League, and Tom Brejcha, Peter Breen, and Jason Craddock of the Thomas More Society in your prayers. God has overcome greater odds than this, we pray He will show that the heart of the Magistrate is in His hands once again. Here’s a sampling of the press on the ruling:

  • Chicago Tribune—”Kane County judge greatly limits defamation suit against Planned Parenthood of Illinois”
  • Beacon News—”Libel suit against Planned Parenthood is dismissed”
  • Christian News Wire—”Court grants Planned Parenthood license to lie”
  • CBS News—”Judge tosses libel suit against Planned Parenthood”
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