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Justice Department Plans To Appeal Kansas Abortion Threat Case

The U.S. Justice Department is challenging a ruling that an abortion opponent's letter saying someone might place an explosive under a Wichita doctor's car is constitutionally protected speech.

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division filed a brief notice Thursday, saying it will appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals a federal judge's summary decision that Angel Dillard's letter was not a "true threat" under the law.

The Justice Department sued Dillard in 2011 under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

The the Valley Center woman wrote a letter to Dr. Mila Means of the South Wind Women's Center, a clinic that offers abortions among its health services.

Dillard wrote that thousands of people from across the nation were scrutinizing Means' background and would know her "habits and routines."

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled after a spate of secret court filings and refused the government's request to unseal those documents, saying in his decision that the government supplied no evidence that actual violence against Means was likely or imminent.

While the defense hailed the decision as a victory for the First Amendment, the government insisted that federal law protects the right of doctors to deliver lawful reproductive health services free from threats of violence.

The judge also rejected the government's request for a permanent injunction prohibiting Dillard from again contacting Means.