Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is trying to silence his Pima County counterpart in the legal fight over a new restriction on abortion.
Montgomery is asking U.S. District Court Judge James Teilborg to dismiss Barbara LaWall from the case scheduled to be heard today over whether a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy should be placed on hold while its legality is debated.
And the reason is that she disagrees with him on the issue.
Attorneys representing three doctors who perform abortions are challenging the law, saying it runs afoul of U.S. Supreme Court rulings which prohibit states from restricting abortions before a fetus is considered viable. That is generally considered to be in the 22 to 24-week range. The law is set to take effect on Aug. 2.
Because Teilborg cannot have a full trial on the legality of the measure, challengers want its enforcement blocked until that can happen. Both Montgomery and LaWall, whose offices would prosecute violators, are named as defendants.
Montgomery, however, thinks the statute is legal and should be allowed to take effect; LaWall does not. So Montgomery is asking that she be removed from the case.
"Given that defendant Barbara LaWall has aligned herself with the plaintiffs, there is no need for her to remain a defendant as her interests are appropriately represented by plaintiffs,'' he is arguing. Montgomery said that allowing LaWall a role in the case would give challengers "two bites at the apple.''
Deputy Pima County Attorney Paula Perrera said that, as far as she is concerned, she will be at today's hearing and remains a part of the case. Perrera said if Teilborg has any questions about LaWall's position or the propriety of her remaining in the litigation, "I will be prepared to respond.''
While Montgomery is trying to oust LaWall from the case, a minister of a Sierra Vista church is trying to join in.
In a letter to Teilborg, John D'Auria who identifies himself with the Body of Christ Ministry, said his organization wants "to be in solemn voice for the unborn parties, for the God-given right of these unborn parties to life.'' D'Auria wants the judge's permission to act as a friend of the court on their behalf.
The letter follows Teilborg's decision last week rejecting Montgomery's request to appoint an attorney specifically to represent the unborn. Montgomery said he fears that the legal fight will focus too much on arguments by lawmakers that the legislation is designed to protect the health of women -- a key reason proponents said they approved the measure -- and not on the rights of the unborn.
Teilborg said, though, he is willing to consider friend of the court briefs by anyone who has something legally relevant to say, "whether it be on behalf of the unborn or the parents.''