In a sharply worded order that criticizes a lawyer, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin denied a motion filed by a group of Texas women who have had abortions; they had sought to file an amicus curiae brief in a suit challenging the constitutionality of Texas’ new sonogram law. In Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services, et al. v. David Lakey, M.D., et al., the plaintiffs challenge the constitutionally of the new law requiring women seeking an abortion to have a sonogram and hear a description of the fetus. In an order on Aug. 23, Sparks denied the request filed by “317 Texas Women Hurt by Abortion,” writing that he’s already turned down two requests for leave to file amici briefs: “The Court has already turned down two extremely tempting offers to transform this case from a boring old federal lawsuit into an exciting, politically-charged media circus,” Sparks wrote. Sparks had some sharp words for the lawyer who represents the 317 Texas Women Hurt by Abortion: San Antonio lawyer Allen E. Parker Jr., who is president of San Antonio-based The Justice Foundation, a legal advocacy group. Sparks wrote that he is “forced to conclude” that Parker is “anything but competent.” “A competent attorney would not have filed this motion in the first place; if he did, he certainly would not have attached exhibits that are both highly prejudicial and legally irrelevant; and if he foolishly did both things, he surely would not be so unprofessional as to file such exhibits unsealed.” Sparks wrote that a competent attorney who did those things would be “deliberately disrespecting this Court and knowingly shirking his professional responsibilities, offenses for which he would be lucky to retain his bar card, much less an intact bank balance.” However, Sparks wrote that for Parker’s sake and because he has no time to hold a sanctions hearing, “the court assumes Mr. Parker is as incompetent as he appears.” Because of that, Sparks wrote, he simply did “what Mr. Parker would have done if he was a competent professional” and sealed one of the attachments to the motion. Parker says Sparks’ order was “hurtful” but notes he respects the judge and “he’s entitled to his opinion.” Parker says the exhibit, which he says was a picture of an aborted fetus, is relevant to the case. “I did not anticipate offending the judge, since judges view many horrible photos,” Parker says. Susan Hays, a shareholder in Godwin Ronquillo in Dallas is one of several lawyers representing the plaintiffs in Texas Medical Providers. As to Sparks’ order denying the request to file an amicus brief, Hays says, “Judge Sparks is absolutely correct. This case is about the law and not politics.” Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, is represented by the Texas Solicitor General’s Office. Assistant Solicitor General Arthur D’Andrea, an attorney for Lakey, refers comment to Tom Kelley, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Kelley did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys
UPDATE: In an order on Aug. 30, Sparks found some parts of the new law are “unconstitutionally vague” and found it violates the First Amendment by “compelling physicians and patients to engage in government-mandated speech and expression.” He granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. After Sparks issued his order, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a notice of appeal. The AG’s office represents two of the defendants: David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, and Mari Robinson, executive director of the Texas Medical Board.