The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a defamation suit originally filed by anti-abortion extremist group Operation Rescue in 1994.
Operation Rescue National sued Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) with defamation after Kennedy said that the group advocated firebombing and murder. Group leaders Randall Terry, Philip Lawler, and Robert Jewitt claimed that they “have never advocated firebombing or murder as part of their opposition to abortion,” and charged Kennedy with tarnishing their reputations.
Originally tried in a Massachusetts State court, the case was soon transferred to a federal court, where the federal government became Operation Rescue’s new defendant. The 1988 Westfall Act allowed that individuals can sue the federal government for acts that its employees carry out as part of their official duties, and grants legal immunity to all officers and employees carrying out their duties on behalf of the federal government’s three branches.
A federal judge threw out the lawsuit, and the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision before the case was sent to the U.S. Supreme Court.