FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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
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.