22 September 2005

How to be Successful in Litigation 101: Maintain a Consistent Legal Position

From Yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle:
The California Medical Association has withdrawn a controversial legal brief it filed supporting the rights of two doctors to argue that they could refuse on religious grounds to artificially inseminate a San Diego County lesbian.

The association is trying to file a new brief co-written by Kaiser Permanente lawyers that would argue almost the opposite. In it, they contend that neither Guadalupe Benitez's sexual orientation nor her marital status was medically relevant to whether her doctors were obliged to treat her.

"CMA does not condone invidious discrimination by physicians, including discrimination of patients based upon sexual orientation," the new brief states. "Further, CMA does not support a religious exemption to statutes prohibiting invidious discrimination."

But the clerk of the state's Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego has rejected the new document on the ground it was filed too late to be considered before oral arguments set for Oct. 11 over whether the doctors can claim a religious exemption in the case. Gay rights advocates plan to challenge the rejection of the new brief.

. . . .

"CMA continues to believe that the defendant physicians deserve a right to due process and a jury trial," [CMA CEO Jack] Lewin said in a statement released Tuesday. "However, it is clear that CMA's policy commitment to oppose any form of invidious discrimination had been so significantly confused and misrepresented, that it was in the best interest of CMA to withdraw the brief."

Attorneys and supporters of Benitez applauded the association's decision to withdraw the original brief.

They had criticized its contention that doctors have the right to argue in court that they can cite religious grounds in denying certain medical care to gays and lesbians, if that refusal was based on the patient's marital status.

"The CMA is affirming principles of nondiscrimination in health care that they have stood for for a long time," said Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association in San Francisco. "We are pleased to see them clarify their position and come out strongly against discrimination based on one's sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status."

Benitez's attorney said the medical association's initial brief was confusing.

"They've really abandoned the previous argument, and what's important is that this new brief is clear and understandable and consistent with the antidiscrimination policy that the California Medical Association and Kaiser Permanente have had for a long time," said Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel for the Western regional office of Lambda Legal, a group that specializes in gay and lesbian rights.

Don't you hate it when your carefully-worded and expertly-crafted legal filings say the exact opposite of your "policy commitment", the principles of nondiscrimination you have "stood for for a long time", and the antidiscrimination policy you "have had for a long time"? What's the civil procedure rules deadline to file a Motion for a Writ of Dumbassery?

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