April 2, 2012 Print
Attorney General Eric Holder

Department of Justice Drops Case Against Counselor

by Karla Dial

The U.S. Department of Justice today quietly dropped a lawsuit it’s been waging against a Florida sidewalk counselor, and agreed to pay her $120,000.

The Obama administration has been dragging the case out for 18 months, waiting until the last possible day to drop the case against Mary “Susan” Pine. She had been accused of obstructing the entrance to an abortion clinic while passing out pro-life literature and counseling women in late 2009. Government attorneys also waited until the last day to file an appeal after a federal judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence in January of this year.

In that decision, Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp questioned whether the DOJ collaborated with the clinic on the prosecution, and said he’d have sanctioned the government if possible.

“The Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place,” Ryskamp wrote. “It is rather curious that the Department of Justice was able to meet with the (clinic) staff and police officers the very next day after the alleged violation occurred.

“The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and the (clinic), which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct. If this is the case, the Court would be inclined to sanction the Government with, at a minimum, an adverse inference. Given the absence of further evidence substantiating the Court’s suspicions, the Court is not authorized to do so.”

Ryskamp found “that the attorney general had no basis to bring the lawsuit, had no evidence that Susan broke the law,” said Harry Mihet, a lawyer with Liberty Counsel, the firm defending Pine.

The Department of Justice originally sought to make Pine pay thousands of dollars in fines, as well as a permanent injunction keeping her away from the public sidewalk in front of the abortion clinic.

Dana Cody, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, pointed out that the Obama administration has a track record of targeting sidewalk counselors around the country.

“This means that your First Amendment Rights are disappearing,” she said. “We have a government now that is controlled by people who are very beholden to the abortion lobby, and that’s why they’re going after these individuals. That’s exactly why you have the First Amendment. If you don’t let people with different viewpoints disagree, then it does have a chilling effect.”

Read the dismissal order.