Federal appeals court rules against local anti-abortion protester

Jon Campisi Feb. 6, 2012, 8:34pm

The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 2 affirmed a federal judge’s ruling that an anti-abortion protester arrested for failing to move to another spot within Independence National Historical Park five years ago cannot collect civil damages from two park rangers who the man claimed violated his rights when they detained him near the Liberty Bell.

The appeals panel ruling ends a fight by Delaware County, Pa. resident Michael Marcavage to collect damages from park rangers Alan Saperstein and Ian Crane, who arrested Marcavage in October 2007 while he was protesting on the 6th Street sidewalk near the entrance to the Liberty Bell pavilion on Chestnut Street.

The spot is located along Independence Mall in the city’s historic district.

Marcavage, 32, was subsequently found guilty by a federal magistrate of violating a term or condition of a permit and interfering with agency functions.

Marcavage appealed the ruling, contending that his First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the rangers took him into custody after Marcavage failed to find another spot within the area to protest.

He sued the park rangers for unspecified damages. The defendants moved to dismiss Marcavage’s civil action.

In its ruling, the federal appeals court agreed with U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III who ruled last year that the park rangers were immune from suit and that Marcavage was unable to prove that the men who arrested him did so without probable cause.

The panel wrote that Marcavage has been unable to rebut the presumption that government officials act within good faith.

“Marcavage is unable to make such a showing, and his claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were therefore properly dismissed as moot,” the ruling states.

Marcavage has made local headlines in the past relating to his involvement with Repent America, a religious fundamentalist organization that has held protests, specifically anti-abortion demonstrations, in and around the region.

Marcavage heads up the evangelical group, which is based in Philadelphia.

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