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Major Pro-Life Victory in Court

Federal District Judge Finds Pro-Life Advocates’ Constitutional

Rights Violated As a Matter of Law, Orders Damages Trial

Press Release POSTED: 7/14/11
Contact: John Obriski 973-244-9895  


Attorney Christopher Ferrara Defends

Pro-Life Activists to Maryland Press

Baltimore, MD – On July 12, 2011, Hon. Richard D. Bennett of the federal district court for the District of Maryland issued a 49-page opinion in a civil rights action filed by attorneys with the American Catholic Lawyers Association (ACLA) in 2009. The decision, following extensive motions for summary judgment by both plaintiffs and defendants, holds that the First and Fourth Amendment rights of the seven pro-life advocates who are the plaintiffs (as well as two pro-life advocates represented by the Alliance Defense Fund) were violated as a matter of law when State Troopers arrested and jailed them in Harford County, MD on August 1, 2008 for displaying signs deemed offensive by passing motorists. (Another plaintiff in the action, the organization Defend Life, Inc., is represented by attorneys Tom Brejcha and Pat Gillen of the Thomas More Society in Chicago.) The plaintiffs’ First and Fourth Amendment claims against the Troopers will proceed to a jury trial for the assessment of damages only.

Quoting controlling case law, the Court held that “[A] reasonable police officer faced with the facts confronted by the Defendants would have known that, in ordering the demonstrators to leave Harford County, he would violate the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. Moreover, arresting the Plaintiffs for exercising those rights was a violation of the Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights. In engaging in this manifestly unlawful behavior, the individual officers could not have reasonably misapprehended the law, nor can it be said that they made a bad guess in a gray area.”

The pro-life advocate plaintiffs in the case, Ames, et al. v. Colonel Terrence Sheridan, are being represented by ACLA President and Chief Counsel Christopher A. Ferrara, serving as lead counsel, and ACLA attorneys Denis Brenan and Howard Walsh, III, assisted by local counsel Matt Paavola.

Commenting on the decision, Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, a member of ACLA’s Advisory Board and interim President of Human Life International, stated: “This is an important judicial decision that protects the natural right of persons involved in an active way in the defense of the right to life of the unborn. 

“We are gratified by the court’s comprehensive decision, and we are preparing to move ahead to a final resolution of this case,” said Mr. Ferrara.

American Catholic Lawyers Association is a non-profit, federally tax-exempt organization dedicated to the defense of the rights of Catholics in the courts and in public discourse. Donations to ACLA  are tax-deductible as provided by federal law.

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