The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with David Daleiden, represented by Thomas More Society attorneys, in a case against University of Washington research lab employees and abortion facility personnel who wanted heavy redactions in public documents detailing 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,” according to the Thomas More Society, “but a lower court ordered the redactions, holding that the First Amendment required them.”
As many as 150 employees who are affiliated with the UW’s Birth Defects Research Laboratory; Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and Idaho; the Planned Parenthood Federation of America; the Cedar River Clinics; and Evergreen Hospital Medical Center sued in August 2016 claiming that they “fear harassment, backlash and violence” if their names and other information were released to Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress.
The District Court entered a preliminary injunction in November requiring heavy redactions and the case has been stayed since then, pending the result of Daleiden’s appeal.
The Ninth Circuit reviewed the decision and held unanimously that the District Court had not sufficiently shown that the disclosures in the documents would chill First Amendment activities.
The court’s order now sends the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, in Seattle, to specify how the disclosures will violate the constitutional rights of the individuals and individual groups to justify the redactions.
Thomas More Society Special Counsel Peter Breen, who argued the appeal, explained, “this case began when our client requested public records from the University of Washington about its publicly funded research lab. 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,” Breen said. “Such heavy redactions render these public documents useless for investigative purposes.”
“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,” Breen added.
Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress have been facing legal trouble ever since they released undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood employees allegedly discussing trafficking in unborn baby parts in 2015. Even Hillary Clinton called the footage, which led to a congressional inquiry, “disturbing.”
Daleiden is currently also appealing a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gag order to the Supreme Court over footage he obtained at a National Abortion Federation convention.