You have been active in the pro-life battle for many years. Could you tell me about your early involvement?
Mimi: The Supreme Court decision came down when I was graduating from high school, so I incorporated it into my valedictorian address. When I went to U.S.F. as a business major, I joined a Youth for Life group started by Dr. Kim Summerhays; we worked up a multi-media pro-life communication. Later in college I worked on political contests in San Francisco, trying to get pro-life candidates elected; I then became treasurer for a political action committee. John and I met when a pro-life friend sent him to my office at a bank; we were married a year and a half later. John was then vice president for Pro Life of Marin. He had just passed the bar and was working for the city attorney for Petaluma, Novato and Larkspur.
John: When I was in college Cathy Plocki asked me to join Pro Life of Marin. We would do voter identification and other political stuff. Sometimes we would go to lectures and try to ask good questions.
You are the founding president of Life Legal Defense Foundation, John, and Mimi is the founding factotum. How did it get started?
Mimi: It started when I was asked to put together a network of attorneys to relieve the defense burden being carried by Dan Grimm. It ran from our dining room table until I was about to deliver our third child, when I passed the books to Mary Maxson (now Riley). We started by running a seminar to train attorneys how to do this work.
John: There was a need to defend the free speech and right to assembly of pro-lifers. Within a couple of years LLDF became primarily a defender of injunction cases, in which a judge has directed an individual or group to stay so many feet away from an abortion killing center.
How would you evaluate the success of Life Legal?
John: I think it’s done quite well for itself. The cases have been fought hard and some of them have been won. Without LLDF some sidewalk counselors and people praying in front of abortion centers would have been trampled. Planned Parenthood and their ilk would have gotten away with much more.
John: They wanted many orders—for example, on controlling noise and photographs, and orders on what words—such as “killing”—could not be used. In some cases they also wanted money, including attorneys’ fees.
Mimi mentioned a training seminar given by LLDF. What else does the group offer to attorneys who will help in the defense of life?
John: Basically we offer accumulated wisdom and experience. We have a storehouse of briefs.
Are there fewer defenses needed now?
John: Yes. Rescues aren’t going on much because the criminal penalties became so arduous. And based on the ruling in the Williams case, a trained chimpanzee could get an injunction in California. In that case the California Supreme Court basically thumbed its nose at the U.S. Supreme Court.
What do you see in the future of the organization?
John: The organization is growing. Up to now we have been all volunteers, except for Mary Riley. Now we have also been able to hire a director, Dana Cody, who is doing a wonderful job. Since we now have our tax-exempt status we will be able to apply for grants, which have hitherto been closed to us. We would like to find a way to do more pro-active things—to be on the offensive from time to time. It is ironic that the legal work on the other side hasn’t been fantastic—a lot of times they got what they wanted just by showing up.