20 July 2013

"I dare you to step over this line!"

Remember this one?

When Bugs Buggy dared Yosemite Sam to step over the line, I suspect he didn't think it would turn out to be a federal case. Nonetheless, two cases in the upcoming Supreme Court term quite literally involve lines in the sand, er, ground.

United States v. ApelDennis Apel is a frequent protester at the front gate of  Vandenberg Air Force Base. He was as subject to a pre-existing order barring him from the base, and was convicted of trespassing under 18 U.S.C. § 1382. After his conviction, the Ninth Circuit ruled in another case that a stretch of highway running through the base was subject to an easement "granted to the State of California, which later relinquished it to the County of Santa Barbara," and as a result the federal government lacked the exclusive right of possession of the area on which the trespass allegedly occurred. Therefore, a trespassing conviction under § 1382 was not valid. In a per curiam decision, the Ninth Circuit reversed Apel's conviction. The Supreme Court will decide whether a federal law which prohibits a person from reentering a military installation after a commanding officer has ordered him not to reenter, may be enforced on a portion of a military installation that is subject to a public roadway easement. The protest area outside the front gate of the base is represented by the green line painted on the road in the image below.

McCullen v. CoakleyThe Massachusetts legislature passed a law that created fixed and floating buffer zones around abortion clinics. In 2007, the legislature amended the statute to create a fixed thirty-five-foot buffer zone around the entrances, exits, and driveways of abortion clinics. McCullen and other plaintiffs regularly engage in "sidewalk counseling" at abortion clinics, but argue that the buffer zones prevent close personal contact with their intended audience and, thus, impede their ability to communicate effectively. The District Court ruled that the statute 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; and the First Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court will decide (1) whether the First Circuit erred in upholding Massachusetts’s selective exclusion law – which makes it a crime for speakers other than clinic “employees or agents...acting within the scope of their employment” to “enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk” within thirty-five feet of an entrance, exit, or driveway of “a reproductive health care facility” – under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, on its face and as applied to petitioners; (2) whether, if Hill v. Colorado permits enforcement of this law, Hill should be limited or overruled. One of the clinic buffer zones is indicated by the painted white arc in the image below.

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