Friday, June 30, 2017

SFALP Wins Major Victory for Reproductive Justice

The San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) has helped secure a major victory for reproductive justice. In First Resort, Inc. v. Herrera, the Ninth Circuit court recently upheld a San Francisco law prohibiting limited services pregnancy centers (LSPCs) from misleading individuals about the services they provide. Specifically, the law prevents these centers from representing that they offer abortions, abortion referrals, and emergency contraception when in fact they do not. SFALP students were integral to the effort to defend the law, and have worked for years on all stages of litigation to bring about this successful result.

Nearly 10 years ago, an SFALP working group began investigating ways to halt the deceptive practices of LSPCs, helping the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office reach the conclusion that an ordinance affirmatively proscribing these practices would be most effective. After San Francisco enacted such a law, the LSPC First Resort sued in federal district court alleging that this violated its constitutional rights. SFALP students played a key role throughout the proceedings of the lower court, ultimately drafting a motion for summary judgment and the related briefing. When the district court upheld the ordinance and First Resort appealed, SFALP continued to play an instrumental role, researching and helping draft the brief to the Ninth Circuit. Students also helped to prepare the lead attorney on the case for oral argument.

The case is important because false and misleading advertising by LSPCs is a problem nationwide, clinic students said. This ruling makes clear that organizations engaging in these deceptive practices cannot use the First Amendment as a defense in court. The outcome of the case outlines a path forward for advocates in other jurisdictions as well, students said.

The San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) is a partnership between Yale Law School and the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office. SFALP students work with San Francisco Deputy City Attorneys to conceive, develop, and litigate some of the most innovative public-interest lawsuits in the country—lawsuits that tackle problems with local dimensions but national effects.