Today's ruling allows NOW to investigate the defendants' recent involvement in forcible, violent acts carried out with co-conspirators such as Paul Hill and Shelley Shannon, who are in prison on murder and attempted murder convictions, respectively.
"It's the most significant development we've had in a long while," said Ireland. NOW won a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in January 1994 that upholds its right to use federal anti-racketeering laws against anti-abortion extremists who engage in a nationwide conspiracy of forcible, violent acts -- murder, attempted murder, arson, bombings, invasions, vandalism and threats -- aimed at shutting down abortion clinics. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ("RICO") laws provide for treble, that is triple, recompense for damages plaintiffs can prove they sustained.
"We've been trying to get discovery open for a solid year and two thirds," said Ireland. "As long as discovery goes on at the same time as any new appeals, we may actually get to trial by March."
District Judge David Coar was particularly emphatic in his ruling, which set aside all current appeals, according to Fay Clayton of Chicago, NOW's attorney in the case. "I'm not going to delay discovery one more day," he said.