Attorney Teresa Collett discusses the effort to intervene in the case during a September 2022 press conference. (Alpha News)

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a group of 60 mothers cannot intervene in defense of a series of abortion regulations that were struck down in 2022.

Mothers Offering Maternal Support (MOMS) is seeking to intervene in a case called Dr. Jane Doe, et al. v. State of Minnesota. The original case, heard in Ramsey County District Court, resulted in longstanding abortion requirements being struck down. Among those laws was a requirement that abortion providers notify parents before performing an abortion on a minor; the two-parent notification law.

Brought by abortion advocates who sought to invalidate abortion regulations in Minnesota, Dr. Jane Doe, et al. v. State of Minnesota was decided by Ramsey County Judge Thomas Gilligan in July of 2022.

While most of the invalidated laws were eventually stripped out of state law books by Democrats during the 2023 legislative session, the two-parent notification law remains a part of Minnesota Statutes.

Represented by attorney Teresa Collett, MOMS now faces a setback after the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s denial of intervention. In rejecting MOMS’ motion, the Court of Appeals cited untimeliness on the group’s part.

According to the Court of Appeals ruling, four requirements must be met to intervene:

“(1) a timely application; (2) an interest in the subject of the action; (3) an inability to protect that interest unless the applicant is a party to the action; and (4) the applicant’s interest is not adequately represented by existing parties.”

In their ruling, the Court of Appeals said, “Because we conclude that MOMS failed to make a timely application to intervene in the action, and because MOMS must satisfy all four requirements, that is where we begin, and end, our analysis.”

Judge Gilligan handed down his decision on July 13, 2022. MOMS filed their motion to intervene on Sept. 12, 2022.

Protesters gather outside of the Minnesota Capitol during the March for Life in January 2024. (Hayley Feland/Alpha News)

The Court of Appeals reasoned that some MOMS members had the opportunity to intervene earlier, having read early newspaper accounts of the case. According to a MOMS press release, the group believes that their motion was timely, pointing to three crucial facts the court allegedly overlooked.

MOMS highlighted that an amended complaint was filed by the plaintiffs just a month before the district court’s decision to strike down the parental notice law. MOMS also emphasized that other parties attempting to intervene were denied based on the lower court’s assurance that the attorney general would robustly defend the two-parent notification law, which, according to MOMS, did not occur.

Then the attorney general dropped his defense of the two-parent notification law after the district court’s ruling.

“Minnesota courts are the backstop to the enforcement of the law when the government has deprived citizens of their constitutional rights,” MOMS representative Dr. Jessica Chastek said. “We expect the courts to allow parents to intervene when state officials like the Attorney General have stepped aside and refused to protect the rights of parents of minor daughters, especially in matters relating to life-altering healthcare and medical decisions.”

MOMS also pointed out that the district court noted several times in its ruling that state officials failed to provide evidence supporting the abortion regulations.

“When MOMS asked the court to allow it to provide the missing evidence, the Attorney General joined the plaintiffs in fighting to keep MOMS out of the case. That the Attorney General failed to defend the law is significant to this case, yet the Court of Appeals makes no mention of that critical fact, nor any reference to the expert declarations that MOMS filed in the district court, clearly demonstrating the Attorney General’s inadequate defense of the parental notification statute,” the group said in a press release.

In response to the Court of Appeals’ decision, MOMS is preparing to appeal the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Collett remains optimistic about their prospects at the higher court, saying, “We are confident the Minnesota Supreme Court will understand the importance of MOMS’ right to protect their daughters.”

“The Court of Appeals has upheld a dangerous precedent allowing a partisan attorney general to fail to defend state law, then fight allowing parents the ability to protect their unique interest,” she said. “Put simply, this decision bars the courthouse door to citizens to intervene when the Attorney General fails in his duty to defend state law.”

 



Hayley Feland

Hayley Feland previously worked as a journalist with The Minnesota Sun, The Wisconsin Daily Star, and The College Fix. She is a Minnesota native with a passion for politics and journalism.





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