Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Journalists seek to lift injunction on release of University of Washington fetal tissue research records

Thomas More Society filings say federal court has
no jurisdiction to halt public records release

This week, Thomas More Society attorneys filed papers in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington seeking to lift a temporary injunction against release of public records related to the University of Washington’s Birth Defects Research Laboratory and its use of aborted fetal body parts. The university and lab were the recipients of an open records request as part of an investigation into their acquisition of fetal tissue
and organs. A group of abortion clinic personnel and public employees, supported by the University of Washington itself, responded by seeking restraining orders and court injunctions to stop the release of public records. The initial request for records was made by undercover journalist and head of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden, who over the past year has exposed Planned Parenthood’s role in the trafficking of baby body parts. 

“The people have a right to know how their government is run,” explained Peter Breen, Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “The plaintiffs here work at a taxpayer-funded state university, and their work is subject to the same sunshine and open records laws as any other government employee. We have filed papers with the court demanding the lifting of the temporary injunction against release of the public’s records and dismissal of this frivolous lawsuit.” 

The attorneys for Daleiden noted the following points in documents submitted to the court: 

  • Public employees and those doing business with the government have no federal or state constitutional right to privacy in connection with their work for a state agency which is subject to broad open records law.
  • The State of Washington’s commitment to openness in government does not allow redaction of names of public employees and those doing business with the government.
  • The plaintiffs’ claims related to the public records act must be heard by the Washington state courts and not federal courts.
Daleiden and his lawyers filed two responses to the plaintiffs’ motions for temporary injunctions, a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and a declaration by Daleiden detailing the involvement of the University of Washington in aborted fetal parts research. The Thomas More Society filings assert that Washington’s Public Records Act does not allow for the restraining orders and injunctive relief requested by plaintiffs, along with detailing the lawsuit’s lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted.  

“The abortion clinic and fetal tissue personnel who brought this lawsuit should not be allowed to prevent the people of the State of Washington from monitoring their government’s involvement in the national controversy over aborted fetal body parts,” added Breen. “These plaintiffs seek to stop release of records owned by the public, but the Washington Public Records Act requires transparency and openness, not obfuscation and delay. We are confident that the public’s right to know will be vindicated in court.” 

Read last night’s filings:

About the Thomas More Society

The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit

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