Stem Express injunction tossed by court

Back when the first Planned Parenthood videos appeared, the baby-harvesting company, StemExpress, went to court to obtain an injunction against the Center for Medical Progress.


A Placerville company that provides stem cells to researchers has won a court order against activists who targeted it in a national furor over abortion.

StemExpress won a temporary restraining order on Tuesday that prevents a group called Center for Medical Progress from releasing undercover videos the company says activists took of its employees. StemExpress alleges the video was illegally recorded during a meeting at Bistro 33 in El Dorado Hills on May 22.

This sets up a possible First Amendment battle between the company and activists who say they have uncovered an improper arrangement in which StemExpress pays Planned Parenthood for tissue from aborted fetuses.

Realizing that the May 22 meeting in El Dorado Hills had been a sting operation by activist David Daleiden, the Placerville company sought the restraining order on the grounds that the group violated California’s anti-wiretapping law. The center has threatened to release hundreds of hours of undercover footage.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell banned release of any video from the May 22 meeting. She also set an August 19 hearing to discuss a StemExpress request for a preliminary injunction until the matters are sorted out in court — and authorized expedited fact-finding on the issue.


Today, California Superior Court tossed the injunction. In brief they said that even if the video was obtained illegally that an injunction was not permissible:

Second, even if Plaintiff’s evidence demonstrates that the videotapes were obtained in violation of Penal Code Section 632, Section 632 does not prohibit the disclosure of information gathered in violation of its terms. Lieberman v. KCOP Television, Inc. (2003) 110 Cal.App. 4th 156, 167. For that reason, the Court is unlikely to enjoin the dissemination of the tapes. Nor does Penal Code Section 637.2 help Plaintiffs. That section permits a person injured by a violation of Penal Code Section 632 “to bring an action to enjoin and restrain” such violation. It does not permit an action to prevent the dissemination of the unlawfully obtained recording.

Not only did the court toss the injunction but it seems probable that StemExpress will be held liable for CMP’s costs under California’s anti-SLAPP statute. This is a good indication that the injunction sought by the National Abortion Federation will receive the same treatment.



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