Planned Parenthood Fed'n of Am., Inc. v. Ctr. for Med. Progress

Decision Date30 September 2016
Docket NumberCase No. 16-cv-00236-WHO
Parties PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA, INC., et al., Plaintiffs, v. CENTER FOR MEDICAL PROGRESS, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California

Erica M. Connolly, Jee Young You, Sharon D. Mayo, Stephanie Ilana Fine, Amy Lynne Bomse, Arnold and Porter LLP, San Francisco, CA, Helene Krasnoff, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Catherine Wynne Short, Life Legal Defense Foundation, Ojai, CA, Charles Salvatore Limandri, Paul Michael Jonna, Jeffrey Michael Trissell, Teresa Lynn Kubu Mendoza, Law Offices of Charles S. Limandri, APC, Rancho Santa Fe, CA, Peter Christopher Breen, Thomas Leonard Brejcha, Jr., Thomas more Society, Chicago, IL, Edward L. White, III, Erik Michael Zimmerman, American Center for Law and Justice, Ann Arbor, MI, Vladimir Frank Kozina, Mayall Hurley, P.C., Stockton, CA, Michael Millen, Law Offices of Michael Millen, Los Gatos, CA, Glenn J. Dickinson, Lightgabler LLP, Camarillo, CA, Nicolaie Cocis, Law Ofc. Nic Cocis and Associates, Murrieta, CA, Horatio Gabriel Mihet, Jonathan David Christman, Liberty Counsel, Orlando, FL, for Defendants.

ORDER ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS AND STRIKE

Re: Dkt. Nos. 78, 79, 81, 86, 87

WILLIAM H. ORRICK, United States District Judge

Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint alleges 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. FAC (Dkt. No. 59) ¶ 1.1 Defendants move to dismiss the FAC, arguing that plaintiffs failed to adequately allege facts supporting their fifteen claims for relief as well as facts supporting their standing.2 Defendants separately move to strike the claims in the FAC under California's anti-SLAPP statute arguing, similarly, that plaintiffs fail to allege facts to support their state law claims and their standing. For the reasons discussed below, while defendants have raised serious arguments with respect to some of the claims in the FAC, as a matter of pleading plaintiffs have alleged sufficient plausible facts to state their claims. The motions to dismiss and strike are DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs allege that defendants formed a conspiracy in 2012 to secretly embed defendant David Daleiden and others within the reproductive health community in order to "expose" what defendants believed were violations of law but what Planned Parenthood contends were legal facilitations of fetal tissue donation. FAC ¶¶ 5, 56. As part of the alleged conspiracy, defendants set up a fake company called BioMax Procurement Services, LLC ("BioMax"), which "dishonestly" held itself out as a legitimate fetal tissue procurement company. Id. ¶¶ 5, 57-58, 61.3 The individual defendants pretended to be officers and employees of BioMax, creating pseudonyms, manufacturing fake identification, and using a credit card with a fake name. Id. ¶¶ 5, 61-62, 85-86. Defendants allegedly used these fake corporate and personal identities to gain access to private conferences held by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation ("NAF"). Id. ¶¶ 5, 64-65, 68-69, 80-89, 98-104, 105-108, 118-123.4 Plaintiffs allege that defendants signed binding confidentiality agreements in order to gain admission into these conferences, making promises that they had no intention of keeping; defendants planned to wear and did wear hidden video cameras, secretly taping hundreds of hours of conversations with plaintiffs' staff. Id. ¶¶ 5, 67-68, 70-71, 82-83, 99-101, 105-107, 114, 120-121.

Plaintiffs allege that defendants then leveraged the "professional" relationships they made at the conferences to seek access to individual Planned Parenthood doctors and affiliates in private meetings, some of them in secure Planned Parenthood offices and clinical spaces in Colorado and Texas. Id. ¶¶ 6, 69-70, 75-76, 109-110, 111, 115. Defendants then repeatedly requested additional meetings with Planned Parenthood staff, "lying at every step about who they were and what they were doing." Id. ¶ 5. As a result, Planned Parenthood senior medical staff and other staff members made time to meet with defendants—the staff were completely unaware that they were being secretly taped and that they would later be featured in "malicious videos." Id. ¶¶ 5, 75-76, 95-97.5

Plaintiffs contend that defendants went public with an online video campaign as part of their "Human Capital Project" by releasing a series of YouTube videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood violated federal law related to fetal tissue. Id. ¶¶ 7, 124-127. According to plaintiffs, the videos were heavily manipulated, with critical content deliberately deleted and disconnected portions sewn together to create a misleading impression. Id. ¶¶ 5,126-127, 128-128, 133-134, 137, 139, 141. Those misleading videos led people to believe that Planned Parenthood had violated the law and acted improperly. As a result, after the release of defendants' videos there was a dramatic increase in threats, harassment, and criminal activities targeting abortion providers and their supporters and, in particular, Planned Parenthood health centers. Id. ¶¶ 8, 130. The doctors and staff targeted in the videos have been the subject of online attacks, harassment at their homes and in their neighborhoods, and death threats. Id. ¶¶ 5, 135, 138, 140.

As a result of defendants' "false statements, breaches of contractual agreements, illegal recordings and the video smear campaign," plaintiffs have incurred millions of dollars in costs and put the safety and security of Planned Parenthood's personnel and patients at serious risk, as "witnessed most horrifically" in the shootings at a Planned Parenthood health center in Colorado Springs on November 27, 2015. Id. ¶¶ 9, 142-147.

Based on these allegations, plaintiffs assert fifteen claims for relief: (1) Violation Of Racketeer Influenced And Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(c) and 1962(d) ) by all plaintiffs against all defendants; (2) Violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511 by all plaintiffs against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax, and Unknown Co-Conspirators; (3) Civil Conspiracy by all plaintiffs against all defendants; (4) Breach Of Contract by PPFA Against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax, and Unknown Co-Conspirators; (5) Breach Of Contract by PPFA, PPNC, PPPSW, PPMM, PPOSB, PPGC, and PPCFC against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax, and Unknown Co-Conspirators; (6) Trespass by PPFA, PPGC, PPCFC, and PPRM against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax, and Unknown Co-Conspirators; (7) Violations of Calif. Bus. & Profs. Code § 17200, et seq. for Unlawful, Unfair, and Fraudulent Acts by all plaintiffs against all defendants; (8) Fraudulent Misrepresentation by PPFA, PPGC, PPCFC, and PPRM Against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax, and Unknown Co-Conspirators; (9) Violation Of California Penal Code § 632 by PPFA, PPNC, PPPSW, PPMM, PPOSB, PPGC, PPCFC and PPRM against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax, and Unknown Coconspirators; (10) Violation Of California Penal Code § 634 by PPFA, PPNC, PPPSW, PPMM, PPOSB, PPGC, PPCFC, and PPRM against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax, and Unknown Coconspirators; (11) Violation of Section 934 Title XLVII of the Florida Criminal Procedure Law by all plaintiffs against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax, and Unknown Co-Conspirators; (12) Violation of § 10–402 of the Courts And Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Annotated Code by PPFA, PPNC, PPPSW, PPMM, PPOSB, PPGC, PPCFC, and PPRM against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax, And Unknown Coconspirators (13) Invasion of Privacy:

Intrusion Upon A Private Place by All Plaintiffs Against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax, and Unknown Co-Conspirators; (14) Invasion of Privacy: California Constitution Art. I § I by PPFA, PPNC, PPPSW, PPMM, and PPOSB against Daleiden, Merritt, Lopez, CMP, BioMax, and Unknown Co-Conspirators; and (15) Breach of Non-Disclosure and Confidentiality Agreement by PPGC and PPCFC against BioMax, Daleiden, and Merritt.

DISCUSSION

I. MOTIONS TO DISMISS

Defendants, and separately Merritt, move to dismiss the claims asserted by plaintiffs for failure to plead adequate and plausible facts to support their claims, as well as facts to establish standing. Defendants also move to strike the state law claims in the FAC under California's anti-SLAPP statute arguing (similar to their motions to dismiss) that plaintiffs have failed to allege sufficient facts to support their claims and their standing to assert them. Each argument is addressed below.

A. Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a district court must dismiss a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts that "allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citation omitted). There must be "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. While courts do not require "heightened fact pleading of specifics," a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955.

In deciding whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court accepts the plaintiff's allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Usher v. City of Los Angeles , 828 F.2d 556, 561 ...

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