By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A St. Joseph County Circuit Court Judge ruled earlier this week that attorneys from the Thomas More Society may depose a former official recently fired by the University of Notre Dame – a key ruling for the defense in the case of the “ND88,” the 88 pro-life demonstrators arrested at the University for protesting President Obama’s receiving honors at the commencement ceremonies in 2009.
Chief Judge Michael Scopelitis ruled that William Kirk, former associate vice president for residential life at the University, may be deposed by the special counsel, Tom Dixon, about the decision to arrest and prosecute the pro-lifers.
“This represents a major victory for the defense, and perhaps even a decisive turning point in this case,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm.
At a hearing last week, Dixon argued that the deposition should not be quashed, as Kirk’s testimony would likely shed new light on why Notre Dame had treated the pro-life protesters differently than others.
As recently as January 2010, gay rights activists demonstrated on campus without an allegedly requisite written permit. In sharp contrast, the 88 pro-life demonstrators have been arrested, jailed, charged with trespass and prosecuted.
As a result, the Thomas More Society has argued that the ND88 were not criminal trespassers but victims of “viewpoint discrimination,” a violation of the First Amendment, which applied to Notre Dame security police as they exercised statutory arrest powers vested in them under Indiana state law.
Chief Judge Scopelitis will set a date for the deposition in the coming weeks.
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