The City of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania enacted a “buffer zone” ordinance that disallows an individual to “knowingly congregate, patrol, picket or demonstrate in a zone extending 20 feet from any portion of an entrance to, exit from, or driveway of a health care facility.”  A group of plaintiffs, protesters and sidewalk counselors near abortion clinics, challenged

This post is authored as a joint post of the RLUIPA Defense ( and Rocky Mountain Sign Law ( blogs.  Evan Seeman of Robinson & Cole and Brian Connolly of Otten Johnson Robinson Neff + Ragonetti contributed to this post.

Late last month, a federal district court in Pennsylvania ruled that

A member of the street ministry of the Seminole Baptist Church, the plaintiff in the case. Source: Seminole Baptist Church
A member of the street ministry of the Seminole Baptist Church, the plaintiff in the case. Source: Seminole Baptist Church

The plaintiff in Williamson v. City of Foley was a Baptist pastor whose congregation periodically engaged in evangelistic street ministry by preaching and witnessing orally and with signs on public sidewalks at the intersection of two major highways.
Continue Reading Evidence of Less-Restrictive Alternatives Do Not (Necessarily) Violate the Narrow Tailoring Requirement

A gated community in Puerto Rico. Source:

This post was authored by Otten Johnson summer law clerk Matt Bender.  Matt is a rising third-year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Recently, the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, in Watchtower Bible Tract Society of New York v. Municipality of Ponce, decided that streets built and maintained by a small, gated community and never deeded to the local municipality, were a public forum.  The court prohibited the neighborhood and its guards from excluding the plaintiffs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and ordered the municipality to affirmatively ensure that the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights would be protected.
Continue Reading In Puerto Rico, Private Roads are a Public Forum

Last week, a court in Missouri ruled that a village’s ordinance prohibiting commercial activity—including commercial photography—in a park was a constitutional restriction on speech.

The Village of Twin Oaks, Missouri had an ordinance that prohibited the use of a village park for commercial purposes.  The park was posted with signage that read:  “No commercial activity, including commercial photographers.”  The stated purpose for the village’s regulation was to ensure public safety and fair use of the park.  Josephine Havlak was a professional photographer who takes pictures for wedding and portrait purposes.  After Havlak filed suit claiming that the ordinance was a content based and unconstitutional restriction on speech, the village modified the ordinance to allow commercial photographers to use the park in exchange for a $100 permit fee.
Continue Reading Photography May Be Protected Speech, But Village’s Restriction on Park Photography Stands

Above, an advertisement that Women’s Health Link wished to place on the side of Citilink buses in Fort Wayne. Source: Alliance Defending Freedom.

In a case that we reported on earlier this year, last month, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an Indiana district court’s grant of summary judgment to the Fort Wayne public transit system, Citilink, holding that the transit company’s rejection of an advertisement for a healthcare organization was unreasonable in light of Citilink’s advertising policy.
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Finds Fort Wayne Bus Advertising Policy Unreasonable

As organizers here in Denver make final preparations for PrideFest this weekend, we report on a case stemming from a similar event scheduled in Syracuse, New York.

A plaintiff who had been prevented from protesting Pride Week in Syracuse in both 2014 and 2015 filed a motion in federal court seeking a preliminary injunction to enjoin the city from restricting the plaintiff’s ability to demonstrate at the upcoming Pride Week festival.  In 2014 and 2015, the plaintiff positioned himself on the sidewalk immediately adjacent to the festival’s entrance with a banner and a voice amplifier, and attempted to “explain[] [his] beliefs to those nearby.”  However, each year, city police officers approached the plaintiff and asked him to move across the street from the festival entrance.  According to video footage taken by the plaintiff, the police officer who approached the plaintiff in 2014 justified his request by stating that the festival organizers’ permit entitled them to exclusive use of the sidewalk area immediately adjacent to the festival entrance.  The police officer who approached the plaintiff in 2015 explained that the festival organizers were entitled to a 40-foot buffer on the area surrounding the festival entrance.
Continue Reading Court Grants Preliminary Injunction in Connection with Syracuse Pride Week Festivities; Buffer Zone Not a Narrowly Tailored Restriction on Speech

This post was authored by Otten Johnson summer law clerk Alex Gano.  Alex is a rising third-year law student at the University of Colorado Law School.

On June 1, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated a lower federal court’s dismissal of a First Amendment challenge to a City of Pittsburgh ordinance that created a fifteen-foot “buffer zone” around entrances to abortion clinics. The lower court dismissed the challenge filed by five self-described “sidewalk counselors” based on a 2009 opinion by the Third Circuit that upheld the same ordinance. Writing for the Court, Judge Kent Jordan interpreted the Supreme Court’s decision in McCullen v. Coakley to compel a more vigorous “narrow-tailoring” analysis to burdens on speech. Judge Jordan’s opinion also implies that McCullen will have the effect of prolonging litigation over buffer zone ordinances, which have become a cutting edge of First Amendment jurisprudence in recent years.
Continue Reading Third Circuit Revives Challenge to Pittsburgh’s Abortion Clinic “Buffer Zone” Ordinance, Portends of More Litigation to Come

Abortion protesters outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Portland, Maine. Source: Bangor Daily News.

This post was authored by Otten Johnson summer law clerk Alex Gano.  Alex is a rising third-year law student at the University of Colorado Law School.

On May 23, a federal judge in Maine issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of a portion of that State’s Civil Rights Act that prohibited “making noise” with the intention of either “jeopardize[ing] the health of persons receiving health services” or “interfer[ing] with the safe and effective delivery” of health services. The ruling in March v. Mills—together with another opinion issued by a federal appellate court in Pennsylvania nine days later—mark the latest chapter in a twenty-year jurisprudential saga on the constitutionality of speech restrictions around abortion clinics.
Continue Reading Federal Judge Enjoins Enforcement of Maine “Noise Provision” as Not Content-Neutral

Earlier this month, a federal district court granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of the Southwest Airlines’ Pilots Association (SWAPA), directing the City of Chicago to allow an ad proposed by SWAPA to be displayed in the Chicago Midway Airport.  The ad (see here) depicts a Southwest pilot holding a sign that reads “Shareholder Returns: $3.1 Billion.  Pilot Raises: $0.”  Acknowledging that a TRO is an “extraordinary” remedy, the court nonetheless granted it in light of an upcoming Southwest Airlines shareholders’ meeting where pilot compensation would be discussed.
Continue Reading Chicago Fails to Transform Airport Advertising Space to a Non-Public Forum; Disgruntled Pilots’ Ad is Permitted