A controversial Trump-appointed judge in North Texas overseeing a lawsuit that seeks to abolish use of a common medication abortion drug nationwide has scheduled a Wednesday hearing, following backlash from reporters who accused him of trying to keep the trial proceedings out of the public eye, reported CNN on Monday.
"The hearing will be at 9 a.m. CT on Wednesday, according to the new order from US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk,' reported Tierney Sneed and Ariane de Vogue. "Several media organizations had asked Kascmaryk to publicly announce his plans to hold a hearing Wednesday in a blockbuster medication abortion case after the judge reportedly moved to keep the hearing under wraps."
Kacsmaryk triggered outrage with his reported initial move to keep hearings a secret, with some attorneys saying it was "very irregular" and "bordering on judicial misconduct." It even contradicts his own court's rules about transparency.
According to Chris Geidner of Law Dork, even though the hearing is publicly docketed, there will be no online or telephone feed of the proceedings, with only those in the courtroom able to watch — still a problem for transparency, as Kacsmaryk's court is in Amarillo, hundreds of miles from any of Texas' largest cities.
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"[We] object to the Court’s decision to delay docketing of the notice of an upcoming hearing in this case and its request that the parties not make the hearing schedule public before it is docketed, as reported by The Washington Post," wrote First Amendment lawyer Peter B. Steffensen in a letter on behalf of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a number of national and Texas media entities.
"No compelling governmental interest justifies the Court’s actions, and because the Court’s actions are not narrowly tailored to advance any such interest, the News Media Coalition objects, and urges the Court to immediately docket notice of the hearing reportedly scheduled for Wednesday, March 15, and, in the future, to promptly docket notices of further proceedings in this case," the letter continued, adding, "While we are aware and mindful of the Court’s expressed concerns regarding security, the Government’s security plan has been effective, and there is no reason to believe, based on the record, that it is insufficient to protect all hearing participants and court staff."
Kacsmaryk is hearing a case by the far-right hate group the Alliance Defending Freedom, which seeks to overturn the FDA's approval of mifepristone, a drug used in concert with misoprostal to induce abortions non-surgically. Roughly half of all abortions nationwide are performed this way. A ruling in favor of ADF would force abortion providers around the country to either switch to surgical abortions or prescibe misoprostol on its own, which is less effective and carries a greater risk of side effects.