Anti-abortion leader facing lawsuit wants judge disqualified

The leader of an anti-abortion group who is being sued wants to disqualify a U.S. judge who barred him from releasing videos recorded at meetings of an association of abortion providers.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick has a longstanding relationship with an organization that partners with Planned Parenthood, attorneys for David Daleiden, a leader of the Center for Medical Progress, said in a court filing late Wednesday. The attorneys also said the judge's wife "liked" Facebook posts critical of Daleiden.

They asked Orrick to recuse himself from a lawsuit that the National Abortion Federation filed against Daleiden. The judge has blocked the Center for Medical Progress from releasing videos made at the federation's meetings and airing the names of its members.

"The instant case is not only high profile but involves one of the most persistently debated moral and political issues of our times," Daleiden's attorneys said in their request. "The public is well aware that abortion is a topic on which many people, including judges, are apt to have very strong feelings they would find difficult to set aside in order to be impartial."

A phone message left at Orrick's chamber was not immediately returned. The judge said last month that he will consider holding Daleiden in contempt of court after links to videos that were barred from release appeared on the website of Daleiden's attorneys.

Daleiden is also facing felony charges of recording people without their permission in violation of California law. The Center for Medical Progress has released several secretly recorded videos that it says show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal.

Planned Parenthood has denied that claim and said the videos were deceptively edited.

The videos stoked the American abortion debate when they were released in 2015 and increased congressional scrutiny of Planned Parenthood that has yet to subside.