Lawyers for the pastor suing over his right to loudly protest abortion outside a Portland Planned Parenthood say he has become so uncooperative that they can no longer represent him.
Attorneys for Andrew March, who leads the Lewiston-area Cell 53 church, disclosed the trouble communicating with their client during a Monday hearing in which a federal judge agreed to allow them to withdraw from the case in two months.
The decision casts further doubt on March’s long-running legal battle with the city of Portland and Attorney General Janet Mills’ office, the future of which was already dealt a blow when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case in April.
March filed his civil suit in 2015, claiming that Mills, the city and several police officers violated his constitutional rights by ordering him not shout his protests from the sidewalk outside the Congress Street clinic.
Last year, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected March’s contention that the law enforced against him was unconstitutional but sent the question of whether it was applied properly back to the federal district court in Maine, where it is now pending.
On Monday afternoon, Kate Oliveri said that she and March’s other lawyer have had “extreme difficulty getting communication back” from him and have not been in touch since late November. She declined to explain these issues further, citing attorney-client privilege.
“We have tried for many months to get this moving forward and have been unable to do so,” said Oliveri, who called into the hearing from her office at the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Magistrate Judge John Rich III declined to allow Oliveri and Portland lawyer Stephen Whiting to immediately withdraw from the case, but rather ordered that they could Feb. 15.
This deadline is meant to give March the opportunity to question the opposing parties — potentially including Gov.-elect Mills — after he gives his own deposition, which Rich ordered must take place by Jan. 15.
But a lawyer for the attorney general’s office said that Mills, who will be sworn in as governor on Jan. 2, would likely offer legal objection to a deposition. And there was concern that March might not show up for his own deposition, a possibility that would throw the case further off the rails and possibly lead to punishment for the pastor.
“If he doesn’t show up for his deposition then all hell breaks loose,” Whiting said.
March could not be reach for comment.
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