Texas Judge Tells Lawyers Not to Disclose Key Hearing Date

Citing death threats and phone calls, a federal judge who is leading a key case that could decide the future of the abortion pill in the US asked lawyers not to release the date of the key hearing, telling them “the less publicity, the better.” “

Judge Matthew Kachsmarik of the Northern District of Texas on Friday held a conference call with attorneys for the case, in which he scheduled oral arguments for Wednesday morning. But Kachmari asked lawyers not to advertise the hearing, citing security concerns.

“And due to limited security and staff resources, I will ask the parties to refrain from further disclosing the hearing date,” Kachmari told lawyers, according to a court transcript of a conference call.

“This is not a non-disclosure order, but simply a request to be courteous given the death threats and harassing phone calls and voice messages that this unit has received,” the judge said.

“We want a smooth hearing so that all parties are heard. I think it’s better to have less publicity for this hearing,” Kaczmarik said, adding that he didn’t want “an unnecessary circus atmosphere.”

Kachmari joined the court in 2019 after being appointed by the former president Donald Trump. His appointment was against Senate Democrats as well as a Republican senator. Susan Collins of Maine, who supports abortion rights. His nomination was also opposed by abortion rights and LGBTQ groups such as Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign.

Those attending Friday’s conference call included lawyers from the Justice Department, abortion pill maker Danco Laboratories and an anti-abortion group called the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Justice Department attorney Julie Straus Harris asked the judge if the hearing date would be made public on the court record. Kachmari responded that he would make it public on Tuesday, but “maybe even after office hours”, shortly before Wednesday morning’s hearing.

The judge presented oral arguments in the case at 9 am Central Time at the US Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas. The hearing will be open to the public. The Washington Post first reported that Kachmari wanted to delay making the hearing public, citing people familiar with the matter.

Although Kachmari tried to delay the date of the hearing until late Tuesday, the media sent a letter to the court on Monday urging the judge to immediately reveal the date. The court revealed the date of the hearing in the minutes later that day.

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Media outlets include NBCUniversal News Group, of which CNBC is a part; The Washington Post, ProPublica, Texas Press Association, Gannett and others. Peter Steffensen of the Southern Methodist University First Amendment Clinic at Dedman Law School sent a letter on behalf of the media.

“The Court’s attempt to delay notice and therefore limit the ability of members of the public, including members of the press, to attend Wednesday’s hearings is unconstitutional and undermines the important values ​​that public access to trials and court records serves,” Steffensen wrote.

A group of anti-abortion doctors called the Hippocratic Medicine Alliance petitioned Kachmari in November to order the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw its approval of mifepristone in abortion pills. The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000.

The abortion pill became a focal point in the legal battle over access to abortion following the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. UK. Wade last June. Mifepristone, used in combination with another drug called misoprostol, is the most common abortion method in the US, accounting for about half of all abortions.

The Hippocratic Medicine Alliance is represented by lawyers from the Liberty Defense Alliance, which worked with Mississippi lawmakers to draft legislation at the center of Dobbs v. USA. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This case eventually led the Supreme Court to strike down the right to abortion under the US Constitution.

Biden administration lawyers, in a January court document, called the case challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone “unprecedented.”

Government lawyers have warned that the FDA’s withdrawal of mifepristone’s approval would effectively remove the pill from the market, severely damaging the public interest. They said the health of women who rely on mifepristone as a safe and effective drug will suffer. Lawyers argued that the FDA’s authority to approve drugs based on its scientific definitions would also be weakened.

“If long-standing FDA drug approvals could be so easily obtained, even decades after they were issued, pharmaceutical companies would not be able to confidently rely on FDA approval decisions to develop the pharmaceutical infrastructure that Americans depend on to treat a variety of diseases.” the study says. Biden administration lawyers wrote about this.

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