A federal judge in San Francisco handed a leading pro-life activist a major free speech win on Wednesday evening with a tentative ruling aimed at severely trimming down Planned Parenthood's lawsuit over undercover videos put out by the Center for Medical Progress.
The ruling from Judge William Orrick — whose “longstanding relationship" with Planned Parenthood has drawn protests from Daleiden's team — rejected Planned Parenthood's claim that CMP activists were trying to incite threats and violence against the abortion provider with the release of the investigative footage, a CMP news release explains.
"I am inclined to exclude from the case all damages that stem from third parties' reactions to the release of the video recordings as impermissible publication damages barred by the First Amendment absent a defamation claim," Orrick wrote. "This would include costs for personal security for plaintiffs' staff and security guards for facilities; costs for physical upgrades to plaintiffs' facilities (e.g., security cameras, fencing, bulletproof glass); costs to fix incidents of vandalism or arson; costs to address hacks of plaintiffs' computer systems (including lost business due to inability to make reservations), as well as costs to prevent future intrusion into computer systems."
Orrick said, "These damages are the result of third-party behavior and reaction to the publication of the video recordings."
However, he added, "This would not include damages for investigating intrusions into plaintiffs' conferences and facilities and improvements to access-security measures for conferences and facilities" or "Nominal or statutory damages."
In 2015, CMP released the first of many undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood's alleged involvement in a lucrative fetal tissue racket. Planned Parenthood responded by taking the pro-life organization to court.
CMP said that definitively removing the third-party damage claims on First Amendment ground could not only decrease the scope of Planned Parenthood's lawsuit from potentially around $20 million to around or under $100,000, but it would also strike a blow for citizen journalists like Daleiden and his colleagues.
"Now that all the facts, evidence, and testimony are in, even Planned Parenthood's favorite judge refuses to buy into the abortion giant's fake news and lies about the honest motives and protected speech of pro-life citizen journalists," a statement from Dalieden reads. "Planned Parenthood is a government-sponsored crime syndicate selling baby body parts like widgets on an assembly line and should only appear in federal court as a criminal defendant."
This is not the only court battle that Daleiden is facing for his undercover reporting. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld an almost $200,000 fine against the organization over videos released under a judge's gag order.