- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

The Supreme Court yesterday asked the Bush administration to file its opinion on free-speech claims by abortion protesters who distribute "wanted" posters for doctors who terminate pregnancies.
In an appeal known publicly as the Nuremberg Files case, the justices are asked to decide if the Old West-style "wanted" posters crosses the line from politics to threat when calling for the deaths of "baby butchers."
At least two of the hundreds of doctors identified on such posters were killed, and their names were crossed off the Nuremberg Files Web site. The Web site says evidence collected is intended to put doctors on trial.
The justices are considering an appeal to a $109 million jury award to four doctors and two Oregon abortion clinics in American Coalition of Life Activists v. Planned Parenthood. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved the verdict's legal basis by a 6-5 vote but ordered a review of its monetary award.
At Friday's closed conference, the justices put off a decision on whether to decide if the First Amendment protected hostile posters published by advocates who considered abortion a crime against humanity. They asked Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson to provide the federal government's view.
Such advice is requested in a handful of cases even though the federal government is not involved. When such opinions are invited, the solicitor general has no deadline to respond and the court does not disclose which justices have joined the request.
Edward L. White III of the Thomas More law center in Ann Arbor, Mich., attorney for the abortion protesters, would not speculate on what Mr. Olson might advise the court or how the Bush administration viewed the Nuremberg Files.
"We believe the First Amendment covers this case and that our petition has national implications. We would hope [the administration sees common ground] because our positions are grounded in the First Amendment and the United States government is supposed to uphold the First Amendment," Mr. White said.
New York lawyer Maria T. Vullo, representing Planned Parenthood and others who sued because of the posters, insisted there were no constitutional issues for the court to decide and called the posters criminal acts.
"In my view, this case is about threats of violence, and law enforcement, including the solicitor general, should be concerned about the conduct of the defendants in this case. My position is a law-enforcement position that supports prosecution of people who threaten violence," Miss Vullo said.
Legal filings term the posters and Web site part of a "hit list" related to five murders, nine attempted murders, five bombings and 30 instances of arson from 1992 to 1994.
The appeals court said posters did not contain statements threatening the doctors.
Mr. White disputes the criminality claim and the injunction based on what he calls the format of a poster bearing no threatening language. He said the 9th Circuit opinion will be used as legal precedent to silence other forms of political protest.
"One of our poster [types] has a picture and words. Another doesn't have a picture. People don't know what is a forbidden poster," he said of a program that he says urges the public to pray for abortion doctors.
Among other actions before recessing until Jan. 13, the court:
Upheld Justice John Paul Stevens' decision this month to allow a Jewish group to display a menorah in downtown Cincinnati, rejecting city pleas to bar all private groups from using Fountain Square. It said the space is needed for a holiday skating rink, concession stand, Christmas trees, wreaths and lights.
Declined to hear Texas' plea to shield it and other states from lawsuits about unequal pay for men and women holding the same job. University of Texas Health Science Center professor Theresa Siler-Khodr received $20,000 a year less than a male colleague with equal credentials and responsibilities.

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