Judge orders Center for Medical Progress to produce memoranda in Planned Parenthood case

By Sandra Lane | Jun 6, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – On May 31, Judge Donna M. Ryu of the U.S. District Court for Northern California declared that defendants in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and affiliates would have to produce some of the information demanded by plaintiffs.


SAN FRANCISCO – On May 31, Judge Donna M. Ryu of the U.S. District Court for Northern California declared that defendants in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and affiliates would have to produce some of the information demanded by plaintiffs.

“The court concludes that defendants have failed to show that the withheld memoranda contain information that constitutes trade secrets which deserve heightened protection beyond the protective order that is already in place. Plaintiffs’ motion to compel production of the two memoranda is therefore granted,” the opinion states.  

However, there were other information requests that were denied.

This court action concerns a lawsuit filed by seven individual California Planned Parenthood Associations (PPFA) accusing the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), et al., of attending PPFA meetings under false pretenses to obtain information about the disposition of fetal tissue following an abortion procedure.

Plaintiffs are Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (PPFA), seven individual California Planned Parenthood affiliates, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and Planned Parenthood Center for Choice.

Defendants are Center for Medical Progress (CMP); BioMax Procurement Services LLC; David Daleiden, also known as Robert Sarkis, who is BioMax’s procurement manager and vice president of operations as well as CMP’s CEO; CMP Secretary Troy Newman; CMP Chief Financial Officer Albin Rhomberg; BioMax registered agent Phillip S. Cronin; BioMax CEO Sandra Susan Merritt, also known as Susan Tennebaum; and BioMax Procurement Technician Gerardo Adrian Lopez.

Plaintiffs allege in the first amended complaint that defendants created a “complex criminal enterprise . . . involving fake companies, fake identifications, and large-scale illegal taping” of reproductive health care conferences and private meetings in order to advance their goal of “interfering with women’s access to legal abortion," the opinion states. They state that this constitutes a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) conspiracy.

According to plaintiffs, defendants’ alleged conspiracy focused on Planned Parenthood affiliates’ facilitation of fetal tissue donation. Defendants allegedly set up a fake company called BioMax that falsely held itself out as a legitimate fetal tissue procurement company.

The individual defendants allegedly pretended to be officers and employees of BioMax using pseudonyms and fake names and used those fake identities to gain access to private conferences held by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. Once admitted, they allegedly wore hidden video cameras and secretly taped hundreds of hours of conversations with plaintiffs’ staff.

According to the opinion, defendants allegedly then “leveraged the professional relationships they made at the conferences” to obtain access to individual Planned Parenthood doctors and affiliates in private meetings, some of them held inside secure Planned Parenthood offices and clinical spaces in Colorado and Texas.

PPFA alleged that defendants then went public with a “vicious online video smear campaign,” called the “Human Capital Project.” Starting in July 2015, defendants "allegedly released a series of YouTube videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood violated federal law related to tissue donation," the opinion states.

Fifteen claims for relief were lodged by plaintiffs, including claims against all defendants for violation of the RICO Act, and conspiracy to violate RICO, and violation of the federal Wiretap Act, against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax and unknown co-conspirators. 

Plaintiffs filed the remaining 13 claims under state law. These include claims for breach of contract, trespass and violation of state wiretapping laws. Plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint March 24, 2016.

As a result, plaintiffs demanded that defendant CMP produce all documents and recordings related to the Human Capital Project, and asked for “publications, advertisements, websites, business cards, exhibits, or other materials created in connection with the Human Capital Project,” the opinion states.

CMP refused to do so citing journalistic privilege.

Judge Ryu said In conclusion, “For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff’s motion to compel is granted in part and denied in part. Defendants shall produce documents and further responses in accordance with this order within 10 days of the date of this order. It is so ordered.”

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