An anti-abortion group that lost a libel lawsuit against Planned Parenthood last month now might be forced to pick up its rival's hefty legal tab.
Planned Parenthood has asked a Kane County court to award it $317,322 in legal fees and costs associated with fighting the case brought by Chicago's Pro-Life Action League.
Two counts of the lawsuit were dismissed early last month when Judge Judith M. Brawka ruled Planned Parenthood was shielded from allegations of libel under a law designed to protect citizens who speak out about government issues.
While the league has said it plans to file an amended lawsuit with four new allegations, Planned Parenthood has begun the process of trying to collect reimbursement for "reasonable attorney's fees and costs" under the Citizens Participation Act.
Eric Scheidler, communications director for the league, said the "enormity" of Planned Parenthood's request demonstrates "just how perverse" its interpretation of the law is.
"The Citizens Participation Act was designed to protect the little guy," Scheidler said after a court appearance Wednesday. "This would destroy us."
But Planned Parenthood claims in recently filed court documents that the sum is justified.
"The fees and costs sought in this petition are reasonable in light of the significant amount of work required to be completed ... in pursuit of the dismissal of the claims," the organization says in a court petition.
The nonprofit league sued Planned Parenthood in October 2007 after a bitter fight over the opening of an Aurora clinic where abortions are performed.
The civil suit was in response to a newspaper ad and a letter to Aurora's mayor and city council which portrayed the organization as violent, Scheidler said.
In dismissing the allegations, Brawka noted that approval for the clinic's opening was still pending before Aurora officials when the information was published, and Planned Parenthood was clearly petitioning for a favorable outcome, as required under the act.
Brawka could rule on Planned Parenthood's request for legal fees as soon as Nov. 12.