Martha Coakley

“Do you want me to write an opinion and say there’s no free speech right to quietly converse on an issue of public importance?”

– Justice Anthony Kennedy, in oral arguments for McCullen v. Coakley

On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCullen v. Coakley, a constitutional challenge to a Massachusetts law creating buffer zones, sometimes called “zones of exclusion,” around abortion clinics. The law at issue, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266 § 120E ½ (2007), provides in part as follows: “No person shall knowingly enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health care facility within a radius of 35 feet of any portion of an entrance, exit or driveway of a reproductive health care facility.” Eleanor McCullen, one of the challengers of the law, is a 76-year-old grandmother who in the past has stood on public sidewalks near abortion clinics in order to initiate one-on-one, non-confrontational conversations with women seeking abortions. The petitioners claim that, over the years, hundreds of women have accepted offers of help from McCullen and the other petitioners. They argue that the new law violates their right to free speech.

The First Circuit opinion below characterizes the plaintiffs’ appeal as advancing “a salmagundi of arguments, old and new, some of which are couched in a creative recalibration of First Amendment principles.” That opinion finds that “[t]he Massachusetts statute at issue here is a content-neutral, narrowly tailored time-place-manner regulation that protects the rights of prospective patients and clinic employees without offending the First Amendment rights of others.”

Unfortunately, the First Circuit is wrong about each of those points. Even more unfortunately, this law does the exact opposite of what most of us would hope . . . .

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* Start spreading the fabulosity: Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has asked the Supreme Court to grant certiorari on a pair of cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. [BuzzFeed]

* Lawrence Lessig wants groups of 300 randomly selected people to craft a constitutional amendment in response to Citizens United. He clearly expects a bit too much of our population. [National Law Journal]

* In South Dakota, your abortion now comes with warnings about an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide. Forget that medical certainty hooey, it’s not constitutionally misleading. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “We do not arrest people because of the color of their skin.” Oh, of course not, Sheriff Arpaio. We totally believe you. But you might stop them, question them, and detain them because of it, right? [New York Times]

* We’ve just got too much Dickinson up in here. And in other Penn State news, the school is now considering a move that may cause at least one of its two law school campuses to lose its accreditation. [Patriot-News]

* Lady Gaga was sued by MGA Entertainment, the maker of Bratz dolls, over her alleged failure to approve a line of dolls made in her image. This is not a company you want to start a bad romance with. [Bloomberg]

* And I am telling you, I’m not going — to grant you parole. William Balfour, the man convicted of murdering Jennifer Hudson’s relatives, was sentenced to three life sentences without the possibility of parole. [CNN]

Let justice be done! Back in November, we told you about what went down during the most recent Harvard-Yale Game. A Boston Club, Cure Lounge, shut down a Game-related gathering, essentially because the black Harvard and Yale students were attracting too many other black people.

At the time, I was appalled, but not particularly hopeful that anything would happen to the owners of the Cure Lounge.

But I guess I underestimated Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. Sure, she ran one of the worst senatorial campaigns since Brutus went up against Mark Antony. But she was all over this issue….

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