It’s been about two years since President Obama was honored by the University of Notre Dame. On that sad day, the university named after Our Lady had pro-life demonstrators arrested for trespassing while other demonstrators were ignored. Their prosecution has been the focus of many pro-life organizations and media which have called for the charges to be dismissed. Finally, after two years, the charges were just dropped against the pro-lifers, according to the Sycamore Trust.
Counsel for Notre Dame and for the ND88 announced today a settlement pursuant to which the criminal charges against the ND88 have been dismissed.
Under the agreement, the ND88 agreed not to sue the University for damages and the University in return agreed to ask the prosecutor to dismiss the charges, which he has done.
This is a notable victory for the defendants, who refused to take an easy way out, and a prudent backing off by the University. Defendants had filed notice of their intention to sue the University for discriminatory arrest and the time period for filing their suits was about to expire. Presumably the complaints would have been filed within a few days if a settlement had not been reached.
By securing the defendants’ promise not to sue, the University has not merely avoided possible monetary liability but has also protected its officers and agents from potentially troublesome examination by defense counsel in both criminal and civil cases.
University officials, for example, would doubtless have been called upon to explain why the University has let go pro-gay and anti-war demonstrators who were arrested for trespass while it has supported the prosecution of these pro-life demonstrators – an uncomfortable fact uncovered by Sycamore Trust that contradicted Father Jenkins’s assertion that the University was treating the ND 88 like everyone else.
Of course, it would have been far better had the University taken this action some two years ago out of Christian compassion and a solidarity of interest with these pro-life defendants. There is no way now for the University to erase the damage these prosecutions have caused to its pro-life standing through the drumbeat of criticism from pro-life forces. While one hopes there has been even at this late date a change not only of mind but also of heart on the part of the University, this “Agreement Not To Sue” appears on the face of it to be essentially a lawyer’s move to cut losses and avoid risks.
Great thanks should go from all pro-lifers to the wonderful lawyers like Tom Dixon as well as the Thomas More Society lawyers Tom Brejcha and Peter Breen.