National Organization for Women Defeated: Final Victory for Joe Scheidler in Federal Court

Joe Scheidler after Oral Arguments

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

Chicago, April 30, 2014 — “This ruling is long-awaited good news,” said Joseph Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League and the chief defendant in the twenty-eight-year-old RICO lawsuit filed by the National Organization for Women.

The Pro-Life Action League had petitioned for reimbursement of the costs incurred in the seven-week trial and subsequent appeals, which culminated in an unprecedented third hearing at the United States Supreme Court and a unanimous victory for Scheidler.

NOW vehemently opposed the League’s efforts to recover its costs. In May, 2013, Seventh Circuit Judge Charles Norgle awarded $63,391.45 to the Pro-Life Action League in a detailed opinion. NOW appealed, unwilling to acknowledge the League’s legitimate claim.

In oral arguments before Judges William Baumer, Frank Easterbrook and David Hamilton on April 18, 2014 — Good Friday — attorney Ariel Lavinbuk, arguing for the Pro-Life Action League, presented a case for the court to affirm Judge Norgle’s ruling. NOW’s attorney was grilled by Judge Easterbrook and proved unable to provide any precedent for NOW’s position that the League should have “pestered” the court for action on the costs.

This is the final victory for Joe Scheidler, known as the “Godfather” of the pro-life movement. His case has been to the Supreme Court three times. In 1994 a 9-0 decision allowed the case to go forward to trial as a civil RICO action. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 to overturn the District Court jury’s 1998 guilty finding against Scheidler and his co-defendants. And in 2006, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled again in favor of Scheidler, putting to rest an effort by NOW to keep the case alive in the Seventh Circuit.

In the latest Federal Court decision, Judge Easterbrook ended his written opinion with the words, “This litigation has lasted far too long. At last it is over.”

“I hope he’s right,” added Scheidler.

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