TORT ABORT

At various times, he has been an officer of, a director for and general counsel to Arizona Right to Life, the state's highest-profile antiabortion group. He provided legal advice for the book Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion, written by Joseph Scheidler, whom U.S. News and World Report recently labeled the intellectual godfather of the antiabortion movement. (Jakubczyk also was a featured speaker at a recent Life Dynamics malpractice seminar, but says he has no formal connection to the group.)

In a telephone interview last week, Jakubczyk insisted that he has done his best to separate his political antiabortion work from his activities as an attorney who from time to time just happens to represent women suing abortion doctors.

Among other things, Jakubczyk claims he screens his cases carefully to ensure that the malpractice lawsuits he files against abortion doctors are bona fide.

He ticks off the checkpoints: A client must have been injured by an abortion doctor. That injury must have been caused by the doctor's failure to exercise a proper standard of medical care. As a practical matter, there must be damages sufficient to make the case worth filing. And the potential client must be able to withstand the rigors of lengthy litigation.

Jakubczyk notes that he declines to file suit against abortion doctors much more often than he accepts such cases.

"I file a lawsuit on behalf of the woman only if there's a legal case," he summarizes.

Jakubczyk is technically correct in that summary. As far as the Arizona court system and the State Bar are concerned, he has never filed suit improperly. According to the authorities, he has not stepped over ethical bounds, or engaged in what can legally be termed harassment, in any of the abortion malpractice cases he has filed.

That is not to say that Jakubczyk has won vast sums of money for the alleged victims in these cases. His record in that regard might charitably be termed dismal.

And although Jakubczyk has not won much money for his clients, he has given abortion providers a lot of unwarranted grief, both in and out of the legal system.

In fact, after a couple of weeks of researching the public record, I have developed an opinion about Mr. Jakubczyk's overall conduct in regard to abortion.

In my opinion, that conduct can reasonably be described as despicable.
His methods are ingenious, even intriguing. He talks about morals and concern for humanity, even as he stretches the system to inflict maximum pain on doctors providing a constitutionally protected health service.

Despicable as I might think his conduct, though, right now, John J. Jakubczyk is perfectly free to practice law, and to file lawsuits against abortion doctors, as he sees fit. Just ask the State Bar of Arizona. Or Dr. Brian Finkel.

If you're going to mention Jakubczyk's name in Finkel's presence, be prepared to spend a long, long time listening to an impassioned screed filled with the sort of imaginative epithets that can only be driven by outrage. When Finkel talks about Jakubczyk and other antiabortion activists, the words "sociopathic" and "malevolent" pop up repeatedly.

The feeling seems to be mutual. Jakubczyk made it fairly clear last week that Finkel is not one of his favorite people. The term "goon" was employed a couple of times, although I don't think it was ever directly assigned to Finkel.

This mutual antipathy has grown from a tangled history that involves a series of antiabortion protests at Finkel's clinic, the Metro Phoenix Women's Center. That history is complicated by a lawsuit Finkel filed to control the protests. And there are also two abortion malpractice lawsuits wound into this tale, both of them cases in which Jakubczyk represented women suing Finkel.

The conflict started in earnest early in 1989, when antiabortion activists began a series of demonstrations at Finkel's clinic; they occurred, on and off, for more than a year. During the demonstrations, activists harassed patients and staff in a variety of ways, at one point even assaulting Finkel in his office and injuring his fingers.

A January 1989 protest involving some 550 people resulted in the arrest of 184 demonstrators, many of whom Jakubczyk subsequently defended in court. The people who attacked Finkel also were prosecuted. But police could not prevent the protests. They could only react to the most outrageously illegal conduct.

Meanwhile, in July 1989, a "Jane Doe" malpractice lawsuit was filed against Finkel, claiming he had performed an incomplete abortion that caused the woman "severe physical and emotional trauma." Jakubczyk was the attorney.

The suit was so important, so well-founded in all respects, that it was dismissed less than six months later, according to court records. No money was paid. The suit was simply permanently dismissed.

The dismissal did, however, involve a deal. Finkel agreed to waive payment of $500 in legal fees a judge had assessed against Jakubczyk. The judge had assessed the fees to compensate Finkel's attorney. Finkel's attorney needed to be compensated for preparing a legal request to keep Jakubczyk from passing out information from pretrial proceedings "to numerous public sources in an attempt to harass, embarrass and annoy Dr. Finkel."

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