The Supreme Court Monday refused to free five anti-abortion
demonstrators from paying nearly $100,000 in legal fees to an
abortion clinic they targeted.
The action, taken without comment in a case from Sacramento,
Calif., marked the first time the justices considered the issue of
lawyer-fee awards in abortion-linked litigation. "That the court
would let this $100,000 penalty stand is outrageous and sends a
very chilling message to pro-life demonstrators," said Jay
Sekulow, a lawyer with the anti-abortion American Center for Law
The justices let stand rulings that said the lawyer-fees award
against the abortion protesters did not violate or wrongly "chill"
their free-speech rights.
The Feminist Women's Health Center operates four medical
clinics in Northern California, including one in Sacramento.
Anti-abortion demonstrations took place there for a year before y
the center's operators sued the demonstrators in 1989. The suit
named as defendants anti-abortion activists Theresa Reali, Murray
Lewis, John Stoos, Jay Baggett and Don Blythe, Operation Rescue and
The suit sought to bar the demonstrators from taking certain
actions and to have them pay all lawyer fees in connection with
Operation Rescue and the other defendants did not show up to
defend themselves and lost by default. After trial, a state judge
ruled against Reali, Lewis, Stoos, Baggett and Blythe.
The judge prohibited picketing within 20 feet of the clinic's
entrance and ordered the five defendants to pay $99,106.98 for the
legal fees incurred by the clinic's operators. State courts upheld
The court also rejected a student's claim that she was denied
her right of free speech when her ninth-grade English teacher gave
her a grade of zero for a report about Jesus. The teacher had told
the girl to write on another topic.
The girl, Brittney Kaye Settle, now 19, had asked for damages
and to have a failing grade on the paper removed from her records
at Dickson County Junior High, 35 miles east of Nashville, Tenn.
Appeals to the principal, superintendent and School Board
failed. Her 1991 suit was thrown out by a federal judge, and his
ruling was upheld by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last
The Supreme Court acted without commenting. r
Settle's father, Jerry Settle, said the high court's decision
was "consistent with the attitude that Christians are a minority
you can treat any way you want to. …