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Michigan pro-life groups, county prosecutors take legal battle to state’s high court

ADF attorneys represent two pro-life organizations seeking to defend state law that protects unborn lives
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LANSING, Mich. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed two briefs Wednesday at the Michigan Supreme Court, appealing a ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals earlier this month that dismissed two county prosecutors and two pro-life groups’ request for that court to take control of the case Planned Parenthood of Michigan v. Attorney General of the State of Michigan (In re Jarzynka) and order a lower court, the Michigan Court of Claims, to dismiss it after that court declared Michigan’s 1931 pro-life law unenforceable. In the underlying case, Planned Parent­hood and Michigan’s attorney general both agree on the outcome, so there were no adverse parties or even a controversy that would allow the court of claims to issue such a ruling.

ADF attorneys represent Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference. The court of appeals ruled that the pro-life groups and county prosecutors, represented by the Great Lakes Justice Center, can’t ask the appeals court to take control of the case despite the glaring lack of court of claims jurisdiction. The appeal asks the state’s high court to review that decision. The other brief opposes Planned Parenthood’s request to appeal the same ruling, which separately—and correctly—concluded that the court of claims lacked authority to bind county prosecutors with its order.

“Michigan’s elected officials have a duty to uphold and defend the law, especially laws that protect the unborn,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. “It was glaringly inappropriate for the court of claims to rule that Michigan’s 1931 pro-life law is unenforceable when that court had no jurisdiction and was bound by court of appeals precedent that already concluded that there is no right to abortion in the Michigan Constitution. We’re asking the Michigan Supreme Court to restore the rule of law in Michigan.”

In the underlying case, Planned Parenthood and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel both argued that the state’s 1931 pro-life law should be invalidated. The court of claims judge, who represented Planned Parenthood before ascending to the bench and argued and lost the key Michigan Court of Appeals case declaring no Michigan right to abortion, declined to dismiss the lawsuit as would have been appropriate, since both sides favor the same outcome. Instead, without any party briefing defending the law or even a hearing on the substance of the case, she issued a sweeping order declaring that the Michigan Constitution likely creates a right to abortion and suggesting that non-party prosecuting attorneys are also barred from enforcing the law.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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John Bursch
John Bursch
Senior Counsel, Vice President of Appellate Advocacy
John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom.