Judge Seeks To Limit Promotion Of Abortion Pill In Access Case- According to a court document released on Tuesday, a federal judge overseeing a high-stakes case that could threaten access to medication abortion across the country asked lawyers for the “courtesy” of not disclosing upcoming arguments. Experts say this is an unusual move for the American judicial system.
According to a transcript of the meeting, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was chosen by former President Donald Trump and is known for his conservatism, advised attorneys that less publicity about the hearing would be preferable because the case has sparked protests and death threats.
According to the transcript, Kacsmaryk added, “And due to limited security resources and staffing, I will ask that the parties avoid further publicizing the hearing date. “Given the death threats and harassing phone calls and voicemails that this division has received, this is not a gag order; it is just a request for courtesy.”
Kacsmaryk did not specify who made threats.
“We want a fluid hearing with all parties being heard. The judge instructed attorneys not to tweet about the hearing, saying that doing so would help the court avoid “any unnecessary circus-like atmosphere of what should be more of an appellate-style proceeding.”
The judge said he planned to issue an order setting the hearing late on Tuesday, one day before the hearing in Amarillo. This Texas Panhandle community has few direct flights. It is more than four hour drive from the nearest major city. Kacsmaryk ultimately issued the order Monday after The Washington Post reported on his attempt to keep the hearing under wraps.
On Wednesday, the Women’s March advocacy group invites people to rally outside the federal courthouse in judge and kangaroo costumes to protest Kacsmaryk. Protests are already scheduled for Amarillo.
Federal judges frequently have security concerns in high-profile cases, according to Terry Maroney, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School specializing in the subject. However, Kacsmaryk’s handling of these concerns was unusual.
“I have not heard of anybody doing this,” Maroney said of Kacsmaryk seeking to delay public notice of the hearing. “It does seem odd and improper to me,” you say.
University of Oklahoma law professor Joseph Thai called it “deeply concerning” for a federal judge to try to keep the public in the dark.
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“The fact that the Trump-appointed judge is deciding a highly political question, potentially denying millions of women across the country a safe and effective abortion pill, makes it all the more critical to ensure public notice and access to the hearing at which their rights will—or will not—be heard,” Thai said. Nothing less than the judicial branch’s legitimacy is at risk.
The FDA’s more than 20-year approval of the drug mifepristone, one of two used in medication abortions that account for more than half of abortions in the U.S. is being challenged in the closely watched lawsuit.
The suit was filed by a group that helped challenge Roe v. Wade, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down last year, stripping away women’s constitutional protections for abortion.
A federal judge overseeing a high-stakes case that could threaten access to medication abortion across the nation told lawyers not to publicize upcoming arguments in the lawsuit, in a move experts say is outside the norm in the U.S. https://t.co/uyrVxcTyWi
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 14, 2023
The impacts of a ruling against the FDA could take years. It could affect states regardless of whether abortion is legal there.
According to the University of Pittsburgh School of Law professor Arthur Hellman, the attorneys could have appealed if Kacsmaryk had issued a gag order. Still, there was no way to have the judge overturn his order requesting their silence “as a courtesy.” “It gives rise to the appearance that he’s trying to keep hearing, somehow, secret,” said Hellman. “It just looks bad.”