A national anti-abortion group affiliated with Operation Rescue has targeted 17 Southern California judges and nine others statewide for picketing, rallies, protest letters and telephone calls in what they say is the first organized effort to pressure jurists who have ruled against abortion protesters.
The Washington, D.C.-based group, known as the Christian Defense Coalition, has distributed more than 500 leaflets containing the judges' office telephone numbers and addresses, names of those sentenced in abortion protests, and sentencing summaries.
Organizers, who include Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, said they have targeted California judges first because they believe anti-abortion protesters in the state--particularly those in Los Angeles and San Diego counties--have been unfairly punished.
Terry said Southern California judges have been especially harsh on members of Operation Rescue and other Christian organizations.
"In San Diego, there's a general tone of harassment; in Los Angeles, the judges are all part of some conspiracy," he said.
In the last year, hundreds of people have been arrested in anti-abortion protests throughout Southern California. Almost all cases have been resolved, with most of those found guilty serving either minimal jail sentences, agreeing to probation or accepting community service assignments with anti-abortion groups.
All of the targeted judges have sentenced abortion protesters to jail time. In many cases, the judges offered probation, but protesters refused because they would have had to refrain from future demonstrations.
One of the coalition's primary targets is El Cajon Municipal Judge Larrie Brainard, who sentenced anti-abortion attorney Cyrus Zal of Folsom to 290 days in jail on contempt of court charges last February. Zal began serving his sentence two weeks ago.
Brainard was the target of repeated protests before the sentencing. His former home was picketed in May and his office has been swamped with hundreds of protest letters and telephone calls on Zal's behalf.
Brainard expressed displeasure at the possibility that he may have to face a new stream of attacks.
"I think it's an ill-advised tactic," he said. "These people don't accept the fact that I'm a minor magistrate expected to uphold the law. Abortion is legal and that is the fact."
Several of the Los Angeles-area judges on the list said they have noticed an increase in protest telephone calls and letters, and some included threats to report them to the state Commission on Judicial Performance.
"This is a novelty to me," said Los Angeles Municipal Judge David S. Milton, who is included on the list. "To go so far as to threaten a complaint with the Judicial Performance Commission is unfair."
It is highly unusual for a political group to try to intimidate a judge once a decision is made, according to Warren Conklin, a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge and president of the California Judges Assn.
Conklin, who is not among those targeted, said he could not recall a similar effort.
"The position of the judiciary is that it's absolutely inappropriate to target a judge for a decision he or she may have made and subject that judge to harassment," Conklin said. "A judicial decision is not part of a public give and take."
Timothy Duffy, who heads the coalition's office, said anti-abortion organizations in California developed the list of judges for a radio broadcast on Christian stations Aug. 14.
The hourlong program, called "With Justice for All," featured members of various Christian groups and focused on what they believed was unfair treatment of anti-abortion advocates by California judges.
Duffy said the show, broadcast on 50 to 60 stations throughout the state, encouraged callers to phone an 800 number and request the list of judges who they said displayed "outrageous and tyrannical behavior" in dealing with abortion protesters.
The coalition distributed about 500 copies of the California judge's list, he said. Duffy said that although California judges were the first to be targeted, such mailings will be made in other parts of the country where the coalition spots problems.
San Diego Municipal Judge Ann Winebrenner, who is on the list, said she understands the protesters' position.
"They sincerely believe that judges are legislating from the bench," she said. "They feel judges are giving their own opinions and not granting fair trials."
Besides Winebrenner and Brainard, targeted San Diego County area judges are El Cajon Municipal Judges Richard Bein, Eddie Sturgeon, Elizabeth Riggs and Victor Bianchini and San Diego Municipal Judges John Thompson and Michael Orfield.
Los Angeles County Municipal judges included on the list, in addition to Milton, are J. Stephen Czuleger, Patty Jo McKay, Richard A. Paez, Victoria M. Chavez, Ernest A. Aubry, John W. Ouderkirk, Enrique Romero and Van Nuys Municipal Judge Lloyd Nash.