Tell me about your legal education and experience.
I entered law school “late in life” after being a city planner in Florida for some years. I came to the Christian faith from a background of drug addition; I wanted to do something about the issues that could be changed, and decided the way to do it was to get involved.
After graduating in the top ten percent of my class from the University of Denver law school I worked for a large firm in the Inland Empire, but I found I couldn’t do what I wanted in a large firm. They require so many billable hours that there isn’t time left for doing other things, and they have restrictions on pro bono work—nothing controversial. As a solo practitioner I have a general business practice in Palm Springs, primarily working with small business owners.
What was your first involvement in pro-life legal work?
A client told me about Eddie Ryan, a very vocal, direct protester, one who is getting the heat because he is effective. I went to watch him. He carries a big placard showing a late-term abortion being pulled out by forceps. He yells to people as they go in—in a kind way to people who are going in for abortions, more strongly to those who work there. He tells them they are living off the blood of others, but he never crosses the line of free speech—never uses profanity or fighting words.
What are fighting words?
Words that would incite someone to physical violence. They cannot merely evoke an emotional response; in fact in a Supreme Court case it was found that even calling someone a murderer was not using fighting words. Fighting words have to be personal.
When I saw the way Eddie protested, I thought, “That’s not the way I would do it—but I’m not doing it.” He pushes the envelope, but not outside the bounds of the law. I decided that if Eddie can win, anyone can win.
Eddie was being charged with employee harassment, but the charge was dropped when we showed he had never threatened an employee. The abortion clinic then got a general “stay-away” injunction against him, but that too was denied when he went before a judge. Then they began to call the police on him; he was arrested more than ten times and is now being prosecuted for disturbing the peace.
A few years ago, the doctor who runs the abortion clinic (and who last year killed a woman by perforating her uterus) said to Eddie. “Don’t you understand I’m doing the world a favor” I’m keeping niggers and Mexicans off welfare.” Now when a minority woman enters the clinic Eddie quotes the doctor—and is being charged with using fighting words.
By the admission of the abortion clinic, Eddie has cut their business in half. Some time ago a couple became extremely angry with him, screaming and gesturing as they drove off. A year later they came back to introduce him to their little daughter Angelica—named for him because they believe he was an angel sent from God to keep her from being killed.
Do you see your future in pro-life work as sticking to defending this one client?
I see my future as doing what God wills. If God sees fit to send me more people I’ll do it. So far it is just Eddie and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.
BRKISSUE Lifeline Volume IX, No. 1 (April 1999) BCKISSUEApr1999