A federal judge yesterday denied a request by the owner of the Laurel abortion clinic to block emergency legislation passed last week by the D.C. City Council that forced the closing of the clinic for "serious deficiencies" in health standards.
U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green rejected arguments by lawyers for the owner, Dr. Milan R. Vuitch, that the act was unconstitutional and refused Vuitch's request for a temporary restraining order that would have permitted the third-floor clinic at 1712 I St. NW to reopen immediately.
City health officials, acting at the order of Mayor Marion Barry Jr., shut down the controversial clinic on Tuesday, citing 24 alleged violations of District health standards.
Green said the District "alleged numerous deficiencies in the clinic's operations which, if proven, raise serious concerns of potentially irreparable harm to the future patients of the clinic.
"The magnitude of these concerns far outweighs the harm resulting to Vuitch from the temporary suspension of the Laurel Clinic's operating license."
Vuitch's lawyer, Myron Solter, argued in a hearing before Green yesterday that the council's "ill-conceived and hastily enacted" emergency legislation, which allows Barry to close a health clinic summarily without a hearing, was aimed specifically at Vuitch.
"I submit that the D.C. Council has gone off half-cocked in response to media-generated pressure," Solter said of the new law.
Solter also contended that portions of the law violate constitutional protections of due process and the separation of powers between the mayor and the council.
But Green said the council has "wide discretion both in evaluating the seriousness of the threat to the public safety and in exercising their power to remedy that danger."
The judge said Vuitch had failed to satisfy "any, much less all" of the guidelines for issuing a temporary restraining order.
Under the new law, Vuitch has until today to file an appeal of Barry's action. Green, in her written ruling issued late yesterday, said she noticed that Vuitch had not yet filed such an appeal.
Vuitch said on the witness stand that he intended to do so.
Assistant Corporation Counsel Nan Reiner contended in court that Vuitch's clinic had shown "callous disregard" for the safety of its patients and had "a miserable track record" in meeting city health standards.