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Scheidler v NOW III – The Supreme Court Rules – Unanimously! – That NOW’s Marathon “RICO” Lawsuit (A Twenty Year Onslaught of False Claims) Must Finally Come to an End!


February 28, 2006

Contact: Tom Brejcha, Esq. 

Today, attorneys for Joseph Scheidler, Andrew Scholberg, Timothy Murphy, and the Pro-Life Action League – four of the five remaining defendants – hailed the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Scheidler v. NOW, reversing the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago for the second time in three years, directing (after 19 ¾ years of nationwide class action litigation) the “entry of judgment for petitioners” (i.e., for all pro-life defendants, including Operation Rescue).

Tom Brejcha, lead defense counsel since 1986 and president and chief counsel at the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, Pro-Life Law Center, a public interest law firm, lauded the decision, authored by Justice Breyer, as “total vindication” for both his clients and for all other peaceful pro-life protesters.  Indeed, Brejcha’s co-counsel Alan Untereiner (partner in Robbins, Russell, et al, in Washington, D.C., who argued the latest high Court appeal on November 30th) observed that today’s decision marked the definitive rejection of only the latest in a series of false and meritless claims advanced by the plaintiffs throughout this mega-scaled, epic struggle – a nationwide class action suit which pitted virtually all of the nation’s abortion providers and NOW, one of the principal abortion advocacy groups, against pro-life protest leaders and, as NOW put it, “up to a million ... co-conspirators.”

In prior appeals to the high Court, protesters had defeated claims that they (a) “conspired to restrain trade” in violation of antitrust laws by trying (peaceably) to “shut down” providers, and (b) “extorted” abortionists’ business by a “pattern” of peaceable sit-ins (civil disobedience), thereby qualifying as “racketeers” under federal RICO law.  In this latest appeal, the protesters rebuffed a last-ditch claim – born of desperation! – that they still could be saddled with a federal racketeering (RICO) injunction on account of four unidentified “violent” acts by some unknown perpetrators, somehow “associated” with them.  These acts supposedly were “overlooked” when the Justices had ruled, 8-1, three years ago that “all of the predicate acts supporting the jury’s finding of a RICO violation must be reversed,” and the RICO judgment “must also be reversed.

Justice Breyer wrote for the Court that the abortion plaintiffs’ latest claim depended on a serious misreading of the scope of the federal Hobbs Act – inventing a new ‘freestanding’ federal crime that made a federal case out of minor crimes unconnected to extortion or robbery, if they merely “affected commerce ... in any way or degree.”  Defense counsel Brejcha added, “The lower court ruling imperiled labor unions and social protesters of all stripes. If the abortion side had prevailed here, anybody organizing protests against businesses or property owners would have been exposed to financially ruinous RICO suits.  This is good reason why our appeal drew such bipartisan support, not only from all the Justices on the Supreme Court, but also from a host of amici curiae including the AFL-CIO, as well as anti-war, anti-death penalty, civil rights, animal rights, and environmental groups.  Now the case will be over, once and for all!” 

Priests for Life Press Release

Fr. Frank's comments

Supreme Court Syllabus of the Scheidler Case (PDF Format)

Justice Breyer Opinion on the Scheidler Case (PDF Format)

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