Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Liberty Counsel’s petition for writ of certiorari regarding a request to review a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals against Sandra Merritt in Planned Parenthood’s multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit for her undercover investigation of the abortion giant.
The High Court’s denial of review was without any comment. The implications of this civil case have far-reaching First Amendment consequences involving free speech and undercover journalism.
In addition to Merritt v. Planned Parenthood Federation, the High Court also denied petitions for writ of certiorari in Newman v. Planned Parenthood Federation, Rhomberg v. Planned Parenthood, Center for Medical Progress v. National Abortion Federation, and Cooley v. National Abortion Federation.
In the petition for writ of certiorari, Liberty Counsel asked the High Court to consider “whether the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause protects newsgathering journalists, who operate under an alias to document and expose what they reasonably believe to be unlawful conduct, from being subjected to punitive liability for ‘fraud.’ This case concerns whether, and to what extent, the press may raise the First Amendment as a defense against generally applicable tort laws when undercover journalists gather and publish truthful news of significant public importance. Accordingly, the First Amendment not only protects the publication of news; it also protects the newsgathering process, including undercover investigations, because ‘without some protection for seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated.’”
Merritt and David Daleiden, founder of Center for Medical Progress, released videos in 2015 following a 30-month undercover investigation exposing Planned Parenthood and other organ procurement companies regarding aborted baby body parts. The videos showed certain Planned Parenthood affiliated executives haggling over prices of aborted baby body parts and discussing how they change abortion procedures to obtain more intact organs.