On Thursday the judge hearing the case of the 88 pro-life protesters who were arrested for trespassing on Notre Dame property earlier this year granted a motion to stay the charges pending an appeal into the question of whether she should recuse herself from the case due to bias.
Judge Jenny Pitts Manier, who is assigned to the case of the 88 pro-lifers who were arrested while protesting President Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame in May, is married to Notre Dame Professor Edward Manier. In addition to several writings revealing his pro-abortion beliefs, the Professor Manier donated “a significant sum of money” to Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign in 2008, as well as additional donations to other pro-abortion candidates in the U.S.
Earlier this year Thomas More Society attorney Tom Dixon put forward a motion requesting that Judge Manier be disqualified from the case based upon her relationship with Professor Manier, as well a decision she had made in a previous case.
In response to the original recusal motion in August, Dixon said that Judge Manier refused to answer whether her husband had ever written on the topic of abortion, saying only, “I’m not my husband.”
However, during today’s hearing, in which Dixon argued in favor of a motion to have the charges against the pro-lifers dismissed altogether, Judge Manier made an about-face and decided to grant the motion to appeal. The appeal will therefore head to either the Indiana Appellate Court or Supreme Court, where it will be decided whether Judge Manier will continue to hear the case, or will be removed.
That process is expected to take at least several months.
Thomas More Society Chief Counsel Tom Brejcha told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) today that the defense team is “very encouraged” by the way that the case is proceeding.
The lull between today’s hearing and arguing the appeal “gives us a prime opportunity to make our case in a very strong and public way,” said Brejcha.
Brejcha pointed out that “this will all be pending while Fr. Jenkins supposedly will be going to participate in the March for Life.”
“I’m hoping,” he continued, that “in the meantime that person’s of good will, will increasingly call on [Fr. Jenkins] to do the right thing and prevail upon the prosecutorial authorities” to drop the cases.
The attorney said that there are hopeful signs that the prosecutorial authorities would be open to honoring a request from Notre Dame to simply drop the cases, not the least of which is that the prosecutors “seem in no great hurry” to get the cases to trial. “I think that any signal to that effect (to drop the cases) from Notre Dame would be welcomed with open arms by the responsible county and state officials,” Brejcha said.
“The idea that Notre Dame has washed its hand of these cases is transparently false,” he continued, “and yet that’s the line that the university spokespeople keep putting out.” Instead, Notre Dame is “the moving force behind the prosecutions.”
“It’s Notre Dame’s property rights and nobody else’s that are at stake here, as opposed to the human rights advocated by the defendants. I think Notre Dame’s got it wrong. We think human rights come before anybody’s property rights, certainly those of Our Lady’s University.”
Even if the cases were to go to trial, however, Brejcha said that the defense team is hopeful, “even confident” that the outcome will be favorable. However, “Before we get to that point, the university would be very well advised to drop the cases. All these people spent time in jail, they’ve gone through distress and difficulty….That should be ample satisfaction for whatever recompense the university thinks it deserves for having suffered the indignity of being a target of protest.”
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