Pro-Life Group That Recorded Planned Parenthood Undercover Ordered to Pay $13 Million in Legal Fees

SAN FRANCISCO — In addition to the $2 million in damages awarded to Planned Parenthood by a jury last year, a federal judge has ruled that the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), led by David Daleiden, must pay more than $13 million in attorneys fees to the abortion and contraception giant.

Planned Parenthood had originally requested over $14 million in attorneys fees for work done by 12 of the more than 130 lawyers who assisted with their legal action against Daleiden and colleague Sandra Merritt.

“Viewing the ample evidence plaintiffs submit regarding the time they spent on the categories of tasks in each phase of this highly contested litigation, and relying on my own knowledge and understanding of the unusually significant time required to develop and try this case, I have a sufficient basis to conclude that the hours plaintiffs seek are reasonable,” wrote U.S. District Judge William Orrick III.

He reduced the amount requested by $1 million, deducting payment requested for in-house counsel, and also declined to grant Planned Parenthood’s request for $37,500 in reimbursement for security costs for witnesses who spoke at trial.

Read Orrick’s Dec. 22 order in full here.

As previously reported, Daleiden and Merritt attended abortion industry conferences from 2013 to 2015 under the names Robert Sarkis and Susan Tennenbaum and with the impression that they were representatives of a company they called BioMax Procurement Services.

They recorded their conversations as they sought to learn about Planned Parenthood’s abortion practices and harvesting partnerships.

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CMP then publicly released video footage of the undercover investigation, showing various Planned Parenthood leaders and representatives of biomedical companies callously discussing extracting unborn children from the womb so that their body parts can be collected and sold for research.

“We’ve been using them for over 10 years, really a long time, [and we] just kind of renegotiated the contract,” Katherine Sheehan, the medical director for Planned Parenthood Pacific Southwest, said of Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR) in one video. “They’re doing the big collections for government-level collections and things like that.”

“I literally have had women come in and they’ll go to the OR and they’re back out in three minutes, and I’m going, ‘What’s going on?’” Parrin Larton of ABR also explained. “Oh yeah, the fetus was already in the [birthing] canal. Whenever we put her in the stirrups, it just fell out.”

“But most of the time, it is not intact,” she added. “The abdomen is always ripped open.. … Everything will just get ripped up, you know. Whenever we have a smooth portion of liver, we think that’s good, because most of the time, just the instruments they go in to pull and it’s just whatever presents first.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee released a report in light of the videos outlining its finding that ABR, StemExpress and Novogenics Laboratories purchased the bodily organs of aborted babies from California Planned Parenthood locations, and then resold them at substantially higher prices.

“[I]n June of 2014, an ABR technician obtained a 20-week-old fetus at a Planned Parenthood clinic, for which it paid $60,” the committee outlined. “From that one fetus, ABR sold its brain to one customer for $325, both of its eyes for $325 each ($650 total) to a second customer, a portion of its liver for $325 to a third customer, its thymus for $325 and another portion of its liver for $325 to a fourth customer, and its lung for $325 to a fifth customer.”

But Planned Parenthood accused Daleiden of initiating a smear campaign to try to harm its organization and soon sued CMP over the matter, alleging fraud, trespass, breach of conduct, and eavesdropping as part of a conspiracy under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Both Daleiden and Merritt were also leveled with numerous criminal charges, which California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed against them. The charges could land them both in prison for a decade, if prosecutors are successful.

In November 2019, a jury awarded Planned Parenthood over $2 million after determining that Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress caused “substantial harm” to the organization. Orrick, who presided over the case, reportedly instructed the jury to find Daleiden guilty of trespass.

He also told jurors that they could not take into account any information that Daleiden discovered during his investigation but only what he knew before launching the undercover project.

“The First Amendment is not a defense to the claims in this case for the jury to consider,” Orrick additionally wrote prior to the trial, according to Courthouse News. “Defendants’ argument that they were citizen journalists was admissible as context for the defendants’ case, not as a legal defense.”

Jurors consequently concluded that Daleiden’s actions constituted the malice and fraud elements required in order to award Planned Parenthood punitive damages, settling on a payment of $870K. Another $470K in compensatory damages was granted for “security upgrades” and screening, and CMP estimates the total damages, when RICO is factored, to be nearly $2.3 million.

Daleiden’s attorneys have appealed that decision.

Courthouse News reports that the attorneys believe that the ruling will be overturned and that CMP will not have to pay any fees to Planned Parenthood.

“We think there’s no basis for Planned Parenthood to be awarded any fees,” attorney Paul Jonna of the firm LiMandri & Jonna LLP told the outlet. “We think there are a number of very serious issues on appeal that will result in reversal, and that there will be ultimately no fees paid to Planned Parenthood.”

This past September, Daleiden sued Planned Parenthood for defamation as it claimed that the video footage he released exposing the organizations’ practices were a “fake smear campaign.”

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