Town of West Hartford v. Operation Rescue, Civ. No. H-89-400 (PCD).

Decision Date21 September 1989
Docket NumberCiv. No. H-89-400 (PCD).
PartiesTOWN OF WEST HARTFORD, a municipal corporation located in Hartford County, State of Connecticut v. OPERATION RESCUE; Joseph M. Scheidler; Randall A. Terry; Project Life, Inc.; Connecticut Pro-Life Action Network; John Kladde; John Charles Grant; Eileen M. Haggerty; Jean Pollock; Spear Printing Co., Inc.; John M. Spear; Catherine A. Jersey; Maria D. Garvey; Lillian A. Loughlin; William Calvin; William P. Cotter; Hjalmar Syversen; Faithful and True Roman Catholics; John Doe(s); and Jane Doe(s).
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut


Marjorie S. Wilder, Patrick G. Alair, Asst. Corp. Counsel, Town of West Hartford, West Hartford, Conn., for plaintiff.

George J. Mercer, Groton, Conn., Anthony Slez, Jr., Westport, Conn., pro hac vice for Operation Rescue, Randall Terry and Project Life, Inc.

Pamela Hershinson, Jon L. Schoenhorn, Hartford, Conn., for intervening plaintiff.

Amy J. Greenberg, Bridgeport, Conn., for Summit Women's Center, Inc.

Desiree M. Jones, Bodell & Gross, Madison, Conn., for Randall Terry.

James Altham, Hamden, Conn., for Eileen M. Haggerty, Jean Pollock, Spear Printing Co., Inc., and John M. Spear.

Vincent P. McCarthy, New Milford, Conn., for Jean Pollock, Spear Printing Co., Inc., John M. Spear, Catherine A. Jersey, Lillian A. Loughlin, and William Calvin.

Joseph P. Secola, Milford, Conn., for Operation Rescue, Joseph M. Scheidler, Randall A. Terry, and non-party Anthony J. Nania.


DORSEY, District Judge.

This action relates to anti-abortion protests on April 1 and June 17, 1989 at the Summit Women's Center ("Center") in West Hartford, Connecticut. The Center is a Connecticut corporation which provides gynecological care, abortion procedures, and other medical services in West Hartford.1 Defendants are alleged to be anti-abortion activists who have participated in those protests. Plaintiff, Town of West Hartford (the "Town"), alleges that defendants sought by unlawful means to preclude the Center from performing abortions and to prevent the Town from diligently and effectively rendering municipal services, including the enforcement of the law, particularly at the lowest possible cost. The Town seeks damages, declaratory and injunctive relief under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1961, et seq.; 42 U.S.C. § 1985; Conn.Gen.Stat. § 46a-58(a); and the common law of conspiracy, negligence and public nuisance.

This memorandum shall serve as the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law under Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a).

I. Findings of Fact

1. The Center is a women's health care facility located on the third floor of an office building within a shopping center at 345 North Main Street, West Hartford. The Center provides medical services, including abortions, to women.

2. On April 1 and June 17, 1989, the Center was the scene of large-scale anti-abortion demonstrations. Large numbers of protesters picketed and distributed leaflets outside the building, but moved to public property when requested. They approached women headed for the Center seeking to dissuade them from the Center and particularly from undertaking abortions. The approaches were forceful and persistent.

3. On each date, a large number of persons, including some defendants, entered and/or blocked the offices of the Center without permission, for the purpose of closing down the Center and preventing and discouraging abortions.2

4. Entry to the Center was gained by rescuers posing as patients who opened the doors for the entire group of rescuers. On June 17, rescuers simply pushed past a Center employee who tried to prevent their entry.

5. On April 1, seventy-five to eighty rescuers arrived at about 7:45 a.m. and entered the Center shortly afterward. The last rescuer was not removed from the Center office until about 6:00 p.m. In June, over two hundred rescuers arrived at the Center about 7:30 a.m. and were not removed until 7:00 p.m. None of the rescuers had any lawful purpose, permission, nor reason for being in the Center offices.

6. On each occasion the rescuers were ordered to leave the premises by employees of the Center, an employee of the owner of the building, and the West Hartford police. The orders were ignored. Rescuers ensconced themselves throughout and outside the Center offices, obstructing access to treatment and recovery rooms and to the Center itself. Some door locks were forced, including some by police and firemen, and equipment was damaged. Elevators in the building were disabled and fire exists blocked.

7. On April 1, patients with appointments at the Center had to "run a gauntlet" of rescuers to enter the clinic and treatment rooms. They were entreated to "repent" and to save their souls by declining an abortion. Some patients were delayed by the obstructions. In June, the rescuers on the premises were so numerous and obstructive that the Center was unable to treat any patients. Twenty-five to thirty-five patients did not show for appointments, many explicitly because of the protest. Patients who did appear were late. Scheduled but uncompleted procedures included gynecological exams, dispensing of medications, and abortions.

8. Offices of others in the building, including medical and dental practitioners, during both the April and June incidents, were obstructed and patients unrelated to the Center were unable to enter to obtain necessary treatment.

9. Some of the Center's employees were intimidated by the invasions. On June 17, a receptionist suffered from an anxiety attack. Four employees quit, giving fear of the protests as a reason.

10. Approximately forty West Hartford police officers responded to the scene on both dates. The department's total strength is about one hundred twenty-five. An ambulance and paramedics under contract to the Town were stationed at the Center during the protests and at the court where the arrestees were processed. In addition, the fire department was called to free five rescuers who had locked themselves together inside the Center.

11. On April 1, sixty-one persons were arrested on charges of criminal trespass, interfering with a police officer, and refusal to be processed. The latter charges arose from the arrestees' "passive resistance" — a refusal to walk after their arrest and to provide identification. The arrestees carried no identification. Defendants John Charles Grant, Catherine A. Jersey, and Hjalmar Syversen were arrested on April 1 for trespassing on the Center's property. On June 17, two hundred sixty-one persons were arrested on similar charges, including defendants William P. Cotter, John Charles Grant, Catherine Jersey, and Hjalmar Syversen. The procedure used by the police to identify these defendants was accurate. The defendants who were arrested for trespassing were, apparently, participating in an organized, intentional and criminal trespass on the property of the Center.

12. The demonstration and rescue was organized, prepared, and orchestrated. The rescuers arrived together and carried no identification. Upon arrest, they adopted a uniform posture, going limp, refusing to walk or cooperate with the arresting officers. On April 1, five rescuers locked themselves together with locks. Some of those detained appear to have exchanged clothes to hamper identification.

13. On each day, from among the demonstrators, one or more persons presented themselves to officials as "negotiators" authorized to speak for the arrestees. The arrestees responded to instructions from negotiators. On April 1, a person identified only as "Bill" acted in this capacity. At arraignment, "Bill" told the arrestees that they could provide identification and be released if they wished, but reminded them of their commitment to refuse identification and remain in custody and requested they do so. He obtained the identification documents of those who wished to be released and supplied a single address and telephone number for all the arrestees.

14. "Bill" was requested to obtain keys to free the rescuers who had locked themselves together. "Bill" offered to speak to the "leaders." After appearing to have done so, he offered the keys if the charges against all arrestees were reduced to misdemeanors. When a meeting with the protest leaders was requested, "Bill" returned with defendant Kladde, who also offered the keys if the charges were reduced and stretchers were used to remove the arrestees. Kladde also offered a nurse to monitor the rescuers.

15. William Calvin functioned as the negotiator on June 17. William Cotter was observed in Quincy, Massachusetts, organizing and directing persons into cars to attend a protest. The convoy of cars were followed to Auburn, Massachusetts. Later that day, Cotter was arrested for trespassing at the Center.

16. There appears to be a substantial association of people who are committed to eliminating the availability of abortions. The association appears to be loose and not formed. Thus, groups have associated under the names "Operation Rescue," "Connecticut Pro-Life Action Network," and "Faithful and True Roman Catholics." Except for Pro-Life, Inc., none is shown to have a legal status. While Randall Terry has written the "bible" for rescuers and proclaims a role in "Operation Rescue," a banner which was shown to have been used by rescuers in the West Hartford incidents did not reveal him to have had a personal role in either incident. Neither has any other association been shown to have had a direct or immediate role in either incident. A number of the rescuers, including arrestees, by wearing the name and/or emblem "Operation Rescue" have adopted that name for their conduct and activity on April 1 and June 17.

17. Defendants Kladde, Grant, Jersey, Calvin, Cotter, Syversen, Loughlin and Pollock were all shown to have been personally involved as...

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