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Covington Secures Kansas Jury Verdict for Pro-Choice Advocate

October 8, 2019

WASHINGTON—A federal jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas today ruled in favor of Covington client Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of pro-choice and reproductive justice organization Trust Women in Wichita, following a case brought against Ms. Burkhart by a prominent anti-abortion activist.

The case involved two incidents in November 2012 and February 2013, during which Ms. Burkhart was threatened and harassed at her home and in her neighborhood by plaintiff Mark Holick and his Spirit One Christian Ministry. The incidents occurred during a perilous time for Ms. Burkhart, as she was preparing to reopen the Wichita abortion clinic that had previously been run by her friend and mentor, the late Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in his church in Wichita in 2009. The harassment was designed to scare Ms. Burkhart into abandoning her plans to reopen the clinic.

Following the two incidents, Ms. Burkhart obtained an order of protection against Mr. Holick from a Kansas state court. After the order expired, Mr. Holick continued his harassment of Ms. Burkhart, filing a federal case alleging malicious prosecution and damage to his reputation, asking for more than $1 million in damages.

Following a seven-day trial, the federal jury in Wichita, Kansas returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Ms. Burkhart.

“This is a tremendous victory for Julie and her efforts to stand up against those who have sought to intimidate her and her organization,” said Covington partner John Hall who co-led the team representing Ms. Burkhart pro bono. “Julie is an amazing individual who has dedicated her life to protecting and advancing women’s reproductive rights. She is as tough as they come in her job, but when harassment spreads to her home in a deliberate attempt to intimidate and make her feel unsafe, that is beyond acceptable,” said Covington partner Jennifer Saulino, the other co-leader of the trial team.

Added Mr. Hall, “I am proud that Covington took on this important case pro bono and that we showed those who might use the courts as another tool of harassment that people like Julie will have some of the country’s top lawyers watching their backs.”

”I am grateful to the Covington team for their years of hard work, which revealed the strategy of the anti-abortion advocates here for what it was—an indefensible effort to use attacks on me to prevent women from getting the care our Constitution guarantees. With Covington’s help, we proved that we will not let them win,” said Ms. Burkhart.

Founded in 2009, Trust Women opens clinics that provide abortion services in underserved communities so that all women can make their own decisions about their health care.

The Covington team was co-led by partners John Hall and Jennifer Saulino and included associates Elizabeth Saxe, Julia Post, Marianne Kies, Annie Wang, Amanda Humphreville, and Molly Doggett. Robert Eye of Robert V. Eye Law Office, LLC served as local counsel.

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