The Trump administration is going after ACLU lawyers in the Supreme Court after the Jane Doe abortion case

  • The Trump administration filed a petition to the Supreme Court asking the justices to vacate the ruling that allowed Jane Doe, an undocumented minor, to obtain an abortion.
  • The government argued that Doe’s lawyers misled them over the timing of her procedure.
  • The court filing suggests that the Supreme Court discipline Doe’s lawyers over their conduct in the case.

The Department of Justice on Friday filed a petition to the Supreme Court accusing the attorneys representing Jane Doe, the undocumented teenage detainee who sought an abortion last month, of misleading the government over the procedure’s timing in an effort to evade a review by the top court.

Doe’s representatives, the government argued, made “what appear to be material misrepresentations and omissions to government counsel designed to thwart this Court’s review.” The court filing suggested that the lawyers, from the American Civil Liberties Union, be disciplined over their actions.

“The government recognises that respondent’s counsel have a duty to zealously advocate on behalf of their client, but they also have duties to this Court and to the Bar,” the filing said. “It appears under the circumstances that those duties may have been violated, and that disciplinary action may therefore be warranted.”

Doe obtained an abortion on October 25, following a lengthy court battle in which the Trump administration sought to prevent her from receiving the procedure, and a federal appeals court ruled that she was constitutionally granted the right.

Doe, whose name and country of origin have not been released, entered the US illegally from central America and was detained in September at a center for children in Texas. While detained, Doe learned she was pregnant and opted to have an abortion while in government custody — a decision that led to weeks of back-and-forth litigation between her attorneys and the Department of Justice.

The government’s filing on Friday argued that the federal appeals court’s October 24 ruling that allowed Doe’s abortion to proceed should be vacated.

The ACLU ‘kept the government in the dark,’ filing alleges

The government alleged in the filing that they were informed by Doe’s lawyers that Doe would be unable to receive counseling from a physician on the evening of October 24, and that the appointment would instead take place on October 25, meaning the abortion would take place on October 26. Under Texas law, women must receive counseling 24 hours before the abortion occurs.

The DOJ had therefore planned to ask the Supreme Court on October 25 to review the appeals court’s ruling that granted Doe the right to have an abortion, the filing said.

But before the government lawyers could do so, the scheduling of Doe’s appointments was pushed up to an earlier date without the government’s knowledge, and the abortion occurred before a Supreme Court review could be sought, the filing alleged.

“By their own account, Ms. Doe’s representatives did three things: they secured the services of Ms. Doe’s original physician (who had provided counseling the previous week), moved her appointment from 7:30 to 4:15 a.m. on the morning of October 25, and changed the appointment from counseling to an abortion,” the filing said.

It continued: “Although Ms. Doe’s representatives informed the government of the change in timing, they did not inform the government of the other two developments — which kept the government in the dark about when Ms. Doe was scheduled to have an abortion.”

In response to the complaint, the ACLU’s legal director David Cole said in a statement that it’s the government’s own fault they failed to seek judicial review quickly enough.

“The Trump administration blocked Jane Doe from getting constitutionally protected care for a month and subjected her to illegal obstruction, coercion, and shaming as she waited,” Cole said. “After the courts cleared the way for her to get her abortion, it was the ACLU’s job as her lawyers to see that she wasn’t delayed any further — not to give the government another chance to stand in her way.”

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