Liberty Counsel testified before Congress today outlining one of a series of incidents that suggests the Department of Justice (DOJ) violated the Constitution by initiating prosecutions for political reasons.
Senior Litigation Counsel Harry Mihet testified before the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing examined an Inspector General report that found evidence of inappropriate conduct by political appointees.
In April 2012, the DOJ dropped its lawsuit against a Florida sidewalk counselor. Susan Pine was accused of obstructing the entrance to an abortion clinic in late 2009. The Department agreed to pay $120,000 in fees and costs. Liberty Counsel, which represented Pine, said she “endured a two-year, baseless and politically motivated prosecution.”
Mihet testified that “The Department of Justice has apparently forgotten its name and that its purpose is to pursue justice and protect civil rights, not unconstitutional, groundless claims manufactured by abortion clinics to intimidate and silence pro-life Americans.”
He described how Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez flew a team of seven taxpayer-funded lawyers to Florida to observe Pine handing out pro-life literature and counseling women outside an abortion seller. After the trip, the DOJ filed a lawsuit against Pine, claiming that she “obstructed” a vehicle from entering the property. However, the DOJ and the abortion seller were unable to provide the videotapes from the security system, which would have shown whether Pine broke the law. In addition, no “victim” ever complained of being obstructed.
“This Department of Justice is driven by political ideology rather than the rule of law,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The testimony is especially troubling regarding Thomas Perez. In our case with Susan Pine, Perez ignored the law and placed his abortion ideology over the rule of law. He was soundly chastised by the federal judge for his shocking disregard for the law and facts.”
Federal Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp concluded there was no evidence that Pine broke any law.
“The Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place,” Ryskamp wrote. He suspected the action “was a concerted effort between the Government and the (abortion clinic), which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities.”
Mihet said the DOJ’s actions affect all Americans.
“When the very institution charged with protecting civil rights becomes complicit in violating them, all Americans suffer,” Mihet explained. “Mr. Perez and those under his leadership have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to follow the rule of law when it conflicts with their partisan ideology.”