A federal judge scheduled a hearing Monday on the use of abortion pills after a coalition of media organizations pressed him to provide more transparency in a Texas case.
Trump-appointed Judge Matthew J. Kaksmarić made public that the hearing would take place on Wednesday.
Public notification of the hearing came after a lawyer representing the media coalition, which includes NBCUniversal News Group and The Washington Post, wrote in a Monday letter to Kacsmaryk that his alleged decision not to make public the hearing schedule in advance was unconstitutional. Was.
An attorney with Southern Methodist University’s First Amendment Clinic, Peter B. Stephenson cited a report over the weekend from The Washington Post that said Kaczmarik told attorneys in the case that he would not post the hearing on the docket until Tuesday night.
“The attempt to delay notice of the court, and therefore, limit the ability of members of the public, including the press, to attend Wednesday’s hearing is unconstitutional, and undermines the important values provided by public access to judicial proceedings and court records.” does less,” wrote Stephenson.
The public is “intensely interested in this case” and the judge’s decision to delay public notice of Wednesday’s hearing “harms everyone, including those supporting the plaintiffs’ position and those supporting the defendants’ position.” ,” They said.
The Post reported that Kaczmaric held a conference call with attorneys on Friday to schedule Wednesday’s hearing in Amarillo, citing multiple people familiar with the call, but that the hearing would be made public to minimize the potential for disruption and potential protests. Wanted to delay the notice.
The judge’s staff did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Restricting the ability of the press and public to attend judicial hearings is rare and “can only be justified by a compelling government interest and even then, such restrictions are narrowly tailored to further that interest.” No such compelling government interest exists here,” Stephenson wrote.
The Senate confirmed Kacsmaryk mostly along party lines in 2019.
The lawsuit at the focus of Wednesday’s hearing was filed in November by the anti-abortion rights group Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine. The group alleges that the process used by the Food and Drug Administration more than 20 years ago to evaluate and approve mifepristone — one of two drugs used for medical abortions — was illegal and should be revoked. must be given.
Medication abortions account for more than half of all abortions nationwide, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
If Kacsmaryk issues an injunction in the case, the Justice Department can immediately ask a higher court to stay or block access to Kacsmaryk’s decision. But taking that step may not yield the results sought by the DOJ, because of the number of conservative-leaning justices who sit on the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals and the conservative majority of the Supreme Court.