First Amendment

The Supreme Court hears cases on a few legal issues every term:  preemption and Fourth Amendment search and seizure cases are two of the most obvious.  Qualified immunity cases are another common staple of the Supreme Court’s diet.  In November the Court decided to hear two such cases and issued an opinion in a third case without oral argument.  The State and Local Legal Center will file an amicus brief in both of the newly granted cases. 

The Supreme Court will decide in McCullen v. Coakley whether a Massachusetts statute prohibiting speech within 35-feet of a reproductive health care facility violates the First Amendment.  The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case.  From the perspective of the Massachusetts legislature, no good deed goes unpunished.  

Massachusetts law, which was modeled around a Colorado statute the Court held constitutional, initially allowed protesters to come within six feet of those entering a clinic within an 18-foot buffer zone around the clinic.  Protesters would crowd six feet from a clinic door making entry into the clinic difficult and intimidating.  So in 2007 Massachusetts adopted a 35-foot fixed buffer zone around clinics.  The First Circuit held that this statute is a constitutional time, place, and manner regulation of speech because numerous communication channels remain available to protesters.

The last week of June likely will be big even for Americans who generally don’t give a second thought to the U.S.  Supreme Court because the Affordable Care Act cases and the Arizona immigration case will be decided then. 

But for at least state government and the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) this week has been exciting!  The Supreme Court issued opinions in two cases where the SLLC filed an amicus brief:  Armour v. Indianapolis and Reichle v. Howards.  Remarkably, the SLLC’s brief was cited in Armour v. Indianapolis.     

A federal appeals court has ruled two public high schools in Wisconsin did not violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by conducting high school graduation ceremonies in a nondenominational Christian Church. A panel of the 7thU.S. Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the church graduations did not result in government-coerced participation in religion or government endorsement of religion.

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