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Court Blocks NY AG Letitia James’ Blatant Venue Shopping In Lawsuit Against Pro-Life Groups

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A court rejected New York Attorney General Letitia James’ attempt to move her lawsuit against a pro-life organization from upstate New York to Manhattan last Tuesday. Her lawsuit comes after the pro-life organization Heartbeat International sued James over her politically motivated targeting of pregnancy help centers.

James, who has a track record of weaponizing the justice system against pro-life advocates, is suing Heartbeat International and several other associated pregnancy help centers. She alleges these organizations made “false and misleading statements” about abortion pill reversal (APR). APR is a protocol that seeks to reverse the effects of mifepristone, the first of two pills in a chemical abortion regimen. While James argues that APR is not FDA-approved or supported by some medical organizations, many organizations, experts, and studies have demonstrated its efficacy for women who change their minds about chemical abortion. According to James, passing information on to women constitutes fraud and false advertising in violation of state law.

Both parties agreed to consolidate the competing lawsuits. Heartbeat International filed for consolidation in upstate Monroe County, where the first suit was filed, as the common-sense option, as the majority of the pro-life organizations involved are located upstate. James’ principal office is located upstate in Albany, in addition to her office located down the street from the Monroe County courthouse.

However, in a clear attempt to shop around for the most pro-abortion jurisdiction she could find, James filed an order with the court to move the case from upstate Monroe County to Manhattan. Attorneys for Heartbeat International broke down James’ ludicrous request in their court filing, stating:

Instead of yielding to this reasonable compromise, [James] seeks to halt this already-in-progress case, so she can try to consolidate it into her later-filed case in New York County, a highly inconvenient (and much more costly) venue, where none of the Plaintiffs are resident. [James’s] litigation tactics smack of flagrant forum shopping: New York County has no connection to this controversy or any of the Plaintiffs. [James] concedes that most of the Plaintiffs are Upstate. (See NYSCEF Doc. No. 13, at 4.) Moreover, even [James] herself appears not to be “resident” in New York County, as the Appellate Division has previously held that the Attorney General’s “principal offices” are in Albany, not Manhattan.

On May 24, New York Supreme Court Justice Sam Valleriani issued an order shooting down James’ ridiculous attempt to relocate to Manhattan. The two lawsuits were combined, with Monroe County set as the rightful venue for the case. 

Peter Breen, Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation at the Thomas More Society, the not-for-profit law firm representing Heartbeat International and the involved pregnancy help centers, counted this decision as a victory against James. 

“For the past month, Letitia James has tried to illegally frighten and harass New York’s pregnancy help organizations into silence, threatening them with lawsuits if they keep speaking their truthful message about Abortion Pill Reversal … Instead of agreeing to a convenient venue, James then sued these charitable organizations in Manhattan, despite the fact that not a single one of the organizations is located there,” Breen said in a statement. “We are pleased that the Court in Monroe County agreed that the cases should be consolidated together and heard in Rochester, the ‘most fair, appropriate and logistically convenient venue,’ and not in Manhattan, which has no connection to the case.”


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