Preventing, “a serious threat to the public’s right to know how their tax dollars are being spent”
The undercover investigators that exposed Planned Parenthood’s baby part market were granted a small victory this week in the form of an appeal.
From the Thomas Moore Society:
Thomas More Society attorneys have won an appeal on behalf of undercover journalist David Daleiden, against a group of University of Washington research lab employees and abortion facility personnel. The government employees and the abortion personnel are seeking to force heavy redactions in public documents about their work procuring, processing, and transferring the organs and tissue of aborted human fetuses, in connection with the school’s taxpayer-funded Birth Defects Research Laboratory.
The Washington state Public Records Act requires full disclosure, but a lower court ordered the redactions, holding that the First Amendment required them. However, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has now reversed that decision, unanimously holding that the District Court had not provided the facts and law sufficient to make a “clear showing” that the U.S. Constitution requires the heavy censoring of these public records. Thomas More Society Special Counsel Peter Breen, who argued the appeal, explained that the order, delivered August 14, 2017, sends the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, in Seattle, which must now specify and justify its decision.
“This case began when our client requested public records from the University of Washington about its publicly funded research lab,” stated Breen. “Mr. Daleiden’s broad-ranging investigation into the trafficking of aborted fetal remains led him to look into the University of Washington’s fetal tissue research and acquisition practices. He asked that names and personal contact info be redacted from the records, but the abortion advocates and government employees pressed for full censorship, even of entity names, job titles, and departments within the university. Such heavy redactions render these public documents useless for investigative purposes.”
The employees, identifying themselves legally as Jane Does and John Does, sued in August 2016, claiming they “would likely face threats, harassment, and violence” if the records were disclosed, even with names and personal contact info redacted. The District Court entered its preliminary injunction requiring heavy redactions on November 15, 2016, and the case has been stayed since then, pending the result of Daleiden’s appeal.
Senior Circuit Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima, and Circuit Judges Jacqueline H. Nguyen and M. Margaret McKeown, heard the arguments and issued the unanimous order reversing the decision by the District Court. In particular, the appellate judges criticized the lower court for misapplying case law in granting a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.
“The Court of Appeals, by reversing this decision and remanding this case back to District Court, has prevented a serious threat to the public’s right to know how their tax dollars are being spent,” added Breen.
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