Counsel for Notre Dame and for the ND88 announced today a settlement pursuant to which the criminal charges against the ND88 have been dismissed.
Under the agreement, the ND88 agreed not to sue the University for damages and the University in return agreed to ask the prosecutor to dismiss the charges, which he has done.
This is a notable victory for the defendants, who refused to take an easy way out, and a prudent backing off by the University. Defendants had filed notice of their intention to sue the University for discriminatory arrest and the time period for filing their suits was about to expire. Presumably the complaints would have been filed within a few days if a settlement had not been reached.
By securing the defendants’ promise not to sue, the University has not merely avoided possible monetary liability but has also protected its officers and agents from potentially troublesome examination by defense counsel in both criminal and civil cases.
University officials, for example, would doubtless have been called upon to explain why the University has let go pro-gay and anti-war demonstrators who were arrested for trespass while it has supported the prosecution of these pro-life demonstrators – an uncomfortable fact uncovered by Sycamore Trust that contradicted Father Jenkins’s assertion that the University was treating the ND 88 like everyone else.
Of course, it would have been far better had the University taken this action some two years ago out of Christian compassion and a solidarity of interest with these pro-life defendants. There is no way now for the University to erase the damage these prosecutions have caused to its pro-life standing through the drumbeat of criticism from pro-life forces. While one hopes there has been even at this late date a change not only of mind but also of heart on the part of the University, this "Agreement Not To Sue" appears on the face of it to be essentially a lawyer’s move to cut losses and avoid risks.
Still, it is a very welcome development. A burden has been lifted from the defendants; the University has finally relented, whatever the reason; it has forestalled what would probably have been a mounting crescendo of criticism lasting for many months, perhaps even years; and the squandering of the pubic treasury on dozens of criminal trials and appeals has been averted. Counsel for the University have brought their client to a wise decision, and one may hope that it comes to more than that.
The heroes in this legal imbroglio are counsel for the defendants, Notre Dame graduates all — Tom Dixon, Tom Brejcha, and Peter Breen — and the estimable Thomas More Society, of which Mr. Brejcha is President and Mr. Breen Executive Director.
Tom Dixon took this on as lead counsel at the start as a volunteer and selflessly and devotedly carried it through to the finish, while Tom Brejcha and Peter Breen provided invaluable “of counsel” assistance. Their extraordinarily effective work through the widespread communications network of the Thomas More Society was surely a key factor.
And so this unhappy episode finally winds to a close. It is a radical understatement to say that we are glad to see it go. We trust you are too.