Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick III ordered pro-life activist Sandra Merritt to pay Planned Parenthood over $13 million in “attorney fees and costs,” in addition to more than $2 million in damages awarded by the jury.
Merritt and colleague David Daleiden, the founder of The Center for Medical Progress, released 14 videos in 2015 exposing Planned Parenthood’s illegal sales of aborted baby body parts after a 30-month undercover operation. The videos showed top-level Planned Parenthood executives haggling over prices of aborted baby body parts and discussing alternative methods for doctors to better harvest fetal organs during abortion procedures.
According to Liberty Counsel, the law firm representing Merritt, Orrick would not allow the jury to view any of the undercover videos during the six-week trial. He also told jury members to not consider the trial a First Amendment case “where freedom of speech and the press could be considered as a defense.”
Yet Liberty Counsel affirmed that Merritt and Daleiden acted according to the parameters of California recording law and “no other citizen journalist or journalism organization has ever been charged with a crime for undercover recordings made in the public interest.”
Merritt had asked Orrick to wait until the Ninth Circuit ruled in the appeal before issuing any further orders. But he disregarded her request and went forward with his ruling—awarding Planned Parenthood six times the amount of the original jury verdict in attorney fees and costs.
Orrick is the same judge who in November 2019 ordered Daleiden to pay the abortion giant $870,000 in punitive damages.
Liberty Counsel, which is representing Merritt, requested Orrick recuse himself from Merritt’s case in 2017, considering he is the founder of the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center that houses the Planned Parenthood of Northern California facility in its complex. He refused.
Following yesterday’s ruling, Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel’s chief litigation counsel said, “[This] decision adds insult to the profound injury inflicted by Planned Parenthood on those who exposed its misdeeds. Planned Parenthood deserves scorn and criminal prosecution for its barbaric practice, not millions of dollars in reward.
“We are asking the higher courts to right this wrong as part of our ongoing efforts to vindicate Sandra Merritt for her courageous work in exposing the truth about Planned Parenthood,” he added.
Above: Sandra Merritt leaving a courtroom on Feb. 3, 2016.
Photo: AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File