In addition to its political effects, the Human Capital Project also resulted in a fifteen count civil lawsuit in the Northern District of California filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nine California Planned Parenthood affiliates, and the Planned Parenthood affiliates in Denver, Colorado and Houston, Texas. The main thrust of the lawsuit is a RICO claim, alleging that the Center for Medical Progress is itself a RICO enterprise. In addition, Planned Parenthood has asserted claims for unlawful recording, breach of contract, trespass, and unfair business practices.
In this case, FCDF filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike. Under that motion if the allegedly tortious activity is constitutionally protected activity, then – to ensure that constitutional rights are not trampled upon –the plaintiff has to bring forward evidence now (before having the opportunity to engage in discovery) showing that it is at least legally possible for it to win. Although this is not necessarily a hard standard to meet, the frivolous nature of Planned Parenthood’s claims meant that at least some of their claims should have been stricken.
Unfortunately, the judge relied on some federal precedent weakening the anti-SLAPP motion in federal court to deny the anti-SLAPP motion in full. FCDF then appealed that order to the Ninth Circuit, which has yet to set a hearing on the appeal. This appeal stayed the case as to the state-law claims, meaning that Planned Parenthood could only engage in discovery as to the RICO claim. The judge also stayed all depositions.
The parties have a conference with the judge set for July 18, 2017, where they will discuss a large number of discovery disputes.
FCDF also just recently filed a motion to disqualify the judge after it was discovered that he sat on the board of directors of a non-profit during the time when it welcomed Planned Parenthood onto its premises and offered them space rent-free. That motion to disqualify will also be heard, by a different judge, in July 2017.