By Jeff Schweers, FLORIDA TODAY
A federal judge has dismissed a civil-rights lawsuit against local pro-life activists and online providers because the attorney for the plaintiff, a local abortion provider, disobeyed a court order. It is the third federal case by Florida abortion clinics against local pro-life activists to be dismissed in the last year amid a slew of federal actions that include the dismissal of two lawsuits against a local clinic.
It also is the second of two cases filed by Aware Woman Center for Choice or its parent company to be dismissed. Aware Woman is the Melbourne clinic that closed last year after two decades of being a target of the national pro-life movement.
“All three of the cases filed against me and others have been dismissed,” local pro-life spokesman Meredith Raney said. “It made a bunch of outrageous claims that weren’t true and obviously were intended to intimidate us.”
Aware Woman has an appeal of the first case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
(Webmaster Note: This appeal was dismissed back in February because attorney Roy Lucas missed deadlines for filing papers. See Item 71 on the Docket.)
Two cases filed against Aware Woman by local protesters also have been rejected at the district level and are on appeal in Atlanta.
Raney is among a handful of people who picket in front of the WomanCare Center in Suntree Plaza, the successor to Aware Woman Center for Choice.
The Manhattan Magnolia Corp. et al., v. Raymond Unterburger case, filed in March 1999, accused Raney and others of illegally blocking the clinic’s entrance.
The lawsuit also accused CompuServe and other Internet providers of giving Raney information about the clinic’s doctors and patients.
U.S. District Judge Daniel K. Hurley granted the third motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that Aware Woman’s attorney Roy Lucas “failed to comply with the local rules regarding attorney admission.”
Lucas also disobeyed a previous court order to file a pleading list the Florida cases since Jan. 1, 1998, in which he participated as an attorney, Hurley said.
Raney said he and other pro-lifers were relieved.
“This means we don’t have to spend any more resources defending this thing,” Raney said. “It’s been considered by us a nuisance lawsuit from the very beginning.”
Now, Raney said, the protesters “can go about our business of trying to provide alternatives to women in crisis pregnancies besides killing their children.”
WebMaster Note: Two similar cases against pro-lifers, Aware Woman, et al. v. Raney, et al. and Ocala Woman’s Center, et al. v. City of Ocala, et al. were dismissed on September 1, 1999 and December 16, 1999 respectively.