Joe Scheidler Allowed to Petition for Costs in Epic Lawsuit

Joe Scheidler after Oral Arguments

Joe Scheidler speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court following oral arguments in NOW v. Scheidler, Nov. 30, 2005 [Photo by EJS]

For everyone who thought the NOW v. Scheidler RICO case ended with the second U. S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Pro-Life Action League National Director Joe Scheidler on February 28, 2006, here’s an update.

Over the course of the lawsuit, the Pro-Life Action League incurred thousands of dollars of expenses, not counting attorneys’ fees. As the ultimate victors in the case, the League is entitled to recover these costs from the plaintiffs, the National Organization for Women.

Thus, shortly after the case was returned to Chicago’s Federal Court for a final ruling, Judge David Coar removed his nationwide injunction and financial judgment, which originally had mandated that the Pro-Life Action League and Joe Scheidler pay to two abortion clinics the sum of $257,780.76.

Scheidler then petitioned the court to recover the costs from NOW.

The Petition for Costs, of course, was met with a series of challenges from NOW’s attorney, Fay Clayton, filings and counter-filings on both sides, and delay after delay.

Judge Coar then retired in December 2010, without ruling on the costs issue — and the case was declared terminated.

But Scheidler and his attorney, Tom Brejcha, chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, weren’t willing to let go of the costs issue. By their reckoning, the National Organization for Women owes Scheidler over $72,000, representing the costs involved in the seven week trial in 1998 and subsequent appeals.

These costs include the trial transcripts, the expenses of bringing in witnesses, duplication of the appeal briefs and a myriad of other incidental expenses. Attorneys’ fees are not recoverable. Those amount to the hundreds of thousands, which are water over the dam.

When Tom Brejcha inquired of the Court regarding the status of the cost request, he learned that the case had been declared terminated and he had to recharge it with additional filings. The case was then assigned to Judge Charles Norgle.

On Tuesday, March 13, 2012, Judge Norgle issued a ruling that the winners in NOW v. Scheidler are, indeed, entitled to petition for costs.

Judge Norgle ordered that both parties must submit a report by April 13 on the agreed upon and the disputed costs. Perhaps if that issue becomes settled, the NOW v. Scheidler case really will be put to rest.

The original Complaint was filed in June 1986, so at this writing the case is just shy of 26 years old. It reminds one of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the famous lawsuit in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House,which dragged on for generations until the disputed inheritance was completely used up in lawyers’ fees.

In the Scheidler case, no lawyers ever benefited from the decades long process, except to hone their skills and probably earn some scorn from their liberal compatriots.

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