On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio, unanimously ruled that a three-hour police detention of law-abiding, pro-life demonstrators presented valid constitutional claims under the First and Fourth Amendments. The Court reversed a lower court's decision in favor of the law enforcement officers.
The case arose out of an incident that occurred on June 10, 2002, while the demonstrators were driving box-body style trucks displaying images of first-term aborted babies in the Dayton, Ohio area. Thirteen officers, including officers from the City of Springboro, Clearcreek Township and the FBI, were involved.
The Thomas More Law Center, a national, public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, brought the case on behalf of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, Inc., a California-based, pro-life organization, and three of its members.
Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center Trial Counsel handling the case, successfully argued that the lengthy detention — so that the FBI could "gather intelligence" on the pro-life demonstrators — violated the demonstrators' Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable police searches and seizures. He further succeeded in showing that the police violated the demonstrators' First Amendment rights by targeting them for disfavored treatment because they were "anti-abortion."
Muise commented, "This is a huge victory for CBR and other pro-life demonstrators who simply want to engage in First Amendment speech activity free from unlawful police harassment and interference."