Supreme Court Ruling Could Impact Local Case

June 26, 2014

The Supreme Court made a unanimous ruling, saying that a 2007 Massachusetts law creating a protest free zone around abortion clinics is unconstitutional.

The previous law made it illegal to protest in the 35 foot buffer-zone around abortion clinics, but the Supreme Court says that violates freedom of speech.

"It's important one for abortion regulation and two for speech regulation in general," says Leslie Kendrick, professor of law for UVa's Law School.

Kendrick says this ruling puts a spotlight on other laws dealing with free speech within buffer-zones.

"These types of laws suddenly look like they are open to more question than what they used to be," says Kendrick. "That doesn't mean that they are necessarily invalid."

"What it might mean is that a city or another state entity has to do a lot more work to show that it's justified in imposing a buffer zone rather than using some other form of regulation."

A recent lawsuit against the city of Charlottesville puts this ruling in to question.

Currently Charlottesville's ordinance bans soliciting ”immediate donation” within 50 feet of either side of the Downtown Mall’s intersections.

Jeffrey Fogel, an attorney representing five panhandlers in this case says quote:

"This decision points out that the local government has to be very careful when they limit people's free speech rights, to limit them as little as possible and that the city has to consider what alternatives there are that would be less impactful on free speech."

According to Fogel the judge in this case was waiting on the Supreme Court's ruling to move forward with a decision.

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