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Lawyer Zal Free on Appeal


Antiabortion attorney Cyrus Zal, more than halfway through a 290-day contempt of court jail sentence, has been freed pending a decision on his latest appeal.

Zal, 42, was released last Friday on $5,000 bail after filing an appeal with the San Diego Superior Court seeking to overturn the 20 contempt-of-court citations issued last year by El Cajon Municipal Court Judge Larrie Brainard.

A hearing on the appeal is set for Jan. 31. In the new appeal, Zal contends, in part, that Brainard's orders violate his right to free speech.

Zal, a Folsom-based attorney, drew the 20 citations during a trial in early 1990 after Brainard warned him not to discuss abortion. Zal represented seven of 11 abortion foes in the case accused of trespassing during a protest in October, 1989, at a La Mesa clinic.

Despite the warning, Zal, a former general counsel for the militant antiabortion group Operation Rescue, repeatedly brought up the abortion issue while questioning witnesses. Six of the seven antiabortion activists were convicted.

Initially, Zal was sentenced to 90 days in jail and fined $10,000. He drew an additional 200 days after saying he could not and would not pay the $10,000--so he was told to work it off at $50 a day.

Zal appealed his contempt citations but, last July, the California Supreme Court rejected his appeal, which alleged technical defects in the procedure by which Brainard issued the contempt citations. Zal checked in last Aug. 13 at County Jail.

Shortly after reporting to jail, Zal was put in a work furlough program. In December, he was transferred to an electronic home surveillance program, under which he remained under house arrest at a North County home.

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