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Judge Kinder dismisses case; another takes its place
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A judge dismissed a long-running lawsuit Monday over state funding for family planning programs, but a separate lawsuit on the issue is just beginning.
During a brief hearing, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Byron Kinder granted Attorney General Jay Nixon's request to dismiss the case on behalf of the state.
In exchange for the dismissal, Kinder requested that Nixon's office pay the more than $7,000 to a special master hired by Kinder to aid him with legal questions involving Nixon's role in the case.
The state Supreme Court had previously issued a ruling allowing the dismissal after finding that Nixon had a conflict because his office was representing both sides in the case.
Initially balked at dismissal
Kinder initially balked at dismissing the lawsuit, citing concerns about whether Nixon had the authority to seek a dismissal. But the Supreme Court reiterated it's position and Kinder complied at Monday's hearing.
Nixon's office said it was reviewing Kinder's request to pay the special master fees.
Nixon's decision to dismiss the case is supported by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.
Anti-abortion lawmakers seeking to keep Planned Parenthood from getting state family planning money have opposed attempts to end the lawsuit.
"This case should have been dismissed long ago. It's truly unfortunate that the state of Missouri has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on this case," said Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. "Women in need of family planning service have gone without those for the last couple of years."
At issue is a 1999 budget provision designed to withhold state family planning money from organizations that share a name, facility, expenses, employees or equipment with an affiliated abortion provider.
As attorney general, Nixon was defending the state law through a specially hired attorney. But Nixon's staff also was defending the state health department, which had decided to award grants to the Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Kinder had twice ruled in favor of the legislature's authority to restrict funding to Planned Parenthood and sought repayment of state funds from Planned Parenthood.
Hearing next month
Despite Monday's dismissal, the issue remains active in a separate lawsuit filed by Daniel Shipley of St. Charles which challenges the use of state money by Planned Parenthood in the most recent budget passed by lawmakers.
The case, which has been assigned to Cole County Associate Circuit Judge Pat Joyce, is to receive a hearing next month.
John Landwehr, Shipley's attorney, said Monday that many of the issues in the first case will again be argued in the new case.
While there has been a lot of discussion on various legal issues, the Missouri Supreme Court has never ruled on the merits of the cases.
"Many of the same issues have been preserved and we will proceed to litigate those basically the way the initial case was litigated," Landwehr said. "I want some judge, somewhere, to make a final decision."
The attorney general will be representing the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in the Shipley case, said Nixon spokesman Scott Holste.
Brownlie, meanwhile, said Planned Parenthood would be applying for state family planning money later this week.
"We are assuming since there is no injunction in place that our application will be considered as all others," Brownlie said.
Brownlie said that an adverse decision in the Shipley case could force the group to pay money back to the state.