THOMAS MORE SOCIETY SETTLES FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST CITY OF AURORA
Lawsuit Had Alleged First Amendment Violations by City Against Protesters at
Midwest's Largest Abortion Facility, Located in Aurora, Illinois
Aurora, Ill. (March 24, 2010) – Tomorrow morning, attorneys for the Thomas More Society will ask Judge Virginia Kendall for leave to spread of record an agreed stipulation and settlement in federal court in Chicago, voluntarily dismissing their First Amendment lawsuit (Fox Valley Families, etc. v. Aurora), filed two years ago to protect the rights of citizens who pray and protest at the Planned Parenthood facility in Aurora. The settlement requires the City of Aurora to amend two ordinances claimed to be unconstitutional, mandates First Amendment training for Aurora police, and establishes a grievance process to handle disputes between the protesters and Aurora officials. While the case will be dismissed, the federal court will retain jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement.
"This settlement signals a successful end to our lawsuit, brought to protect the rights of those who pray and protest at abortion facilities in the City of Aurora," said Peter Breen, Executive Director of the Thomas More Society. "Early on, Judge Virginia Kendall expressed her hope that the parties would reach an agreement that could serve as a model for the rest of the country. We believe this settlement agreement will become such a model."
Some of the more detailed provisions of the settlement include:
- Illegal City Signage: City street signs prohibiting any "picketing or protesting" will be removed.
- Police Training: First Amendment rights and non-discriminatory law enforcement training will be required for all full-time officers of the Aurora Police Department.
- Grievances Protocol: A new procedure for airing grievances that may arise is established, with designated liaisons for the parties meeting quarterly, and more frequently as necessary, to resolve disputes in a way to avoid court involvement.
- Public Property: Protects right of pro-life individuals to use public sidewalks and parkways for prayer and protest.
- Signs with Graphic Content: Graphic signs may be used in demonstrations, with appropriate warning signs displayed to alert passers-by.
- Camera Installation: The City will install a high-resolution video camera to continuously record all activities near the facility, if it installs any such other cameras for law enforcement in the city.
- Access Road Usage: Protesters who use the private access road near the facility will not be arrested, absent a property owner's direction, and unless there is any serious criminal history, such incidents will be deemed ordinance violations subject to the grievance procedure.
- Sidewalk Construction: To assure public safety, Aurora will take necessary steps to ensure a public sidewalk is constructed along the access road.
Case No. 07 C 4803
Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood, Pro-Life Action League, and Eric Scheidler v. The City of Aurora
About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit, public interest law firm based in Chicago and dedicated to fighting for the rights and dignity of all human beings, from conception until natural death. The Society vigorously defends clients in state and federal courtrooms around the country, addressing vital issues across the pro-life spectrum, including pregnancy discrimination, end-of-life health care, the right of conscientious objection for medical workers, freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and peaceable nonviolent protest.
As a public interest law firm, the Thomas More Society is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, supported solely by private donations. Visit www.thomasmoresociety.org for more information.