.- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Portland, Oregon, will hear oral arguments today in one of the most important First Amendment cases in the country. The Thomas More Law Center and the American Catholic Lawyers Association will present arguments on behalf of 14 pro-life advocates, who were hit with a $120-million jury verdict in 1999. The Law Center is representing six of the defendants in the so-called “Nuremberg Files” case. The case was primarily based on the defendants’ use of “wanted” posters, specifically naming abortion providers. Edward L. White III, trial counsel with the Law Center, said he is hopeful that the court will apply the new case law to the defendants’ situation, which would require the reversal of the jury’s verdict. After the 1999 jury verdict, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously decided to set aside the verdict and injunction because the defendants’ speech was protected by the First Amendment. However, an 11-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit overturned the unanimous decision in 2002 with a vote of six to five.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decision. Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued at least two opinions, which the Law Center believes require a reversal of the court’s decision or at least a new trial.
According to the Law Center, the Supreme Court has now made it clear that for a defendant to be found guilty of making a threat, a jury must determine that the defendant made the threat with specific intent to commit violence. In the defendants’ case, however, the jury was told that it did not have to find specific intent.Also, the Supreme Court has now made it clear that for a pro-lifer to be found guilty of “extortion” under RICO, the pro-lifer must obtain property from an abortion provider. With regard to the “Nuremberg Files” case, there was no evidence that the defendants had obtained any property from the abortion providers, yet the latter were still awarded more than $11 million based on their RICO claims.