OCTOBER TERM, 1996
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the second circuit
No. 95-1065. Argued October 16, 1996—Decided February 19, 1997
Respondents, upstate New York abortion doctors and clinics and an organization dedicated to maintaining access to abortion services, filed a complaint in the District Court seeking to enjoin petitioners, other individuals, and three organizations from engaging in blockades and other illegal conduct at the clinics. The record shows that, before the complaint was filed, the clinics were subjected to numerous large-scale blockades in which protesters marched, stood, knelt, sat, or lay in clinic parking lot driveways and doorways, blocking or hindering cars from entering the lots, and patients and clinic employees from entering the clinics. In addition, smaller groups of protesters consistently attempted to stop or disrupt clinic operations by, among other things, milling around clinic doorways and driveway entrances, trespassing onto clinic parking lots, crowding around cars, and surrounding, crowding, jostling, grabbing, pushing, shoving, and yelling and spitting at women entering the clinics and their escorts. On the sidewalks outside the clinics, protesters called "sidewalk counselors" used similar methods in attempting to dissuade women headed toward the clinics from having abortions. The local police were unable to respond effectively to the protests due, in part, to the fact that the defendants harassed them verbally and by mail. The District Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO), and later, after the protests and sidewalk counseling continued, a preliminary injunction. As relevant here, injunction provisions banned "demonstrating within fifteen feet . . . of . . . doorways or doorway entrances, parking lot entrances, driveways and driveway entrances of [clinic] facilities" (fixed buffer zones), or "within fifteen feet of any person or vehicle seeking access to or leaving such facilities" (floating buffer zones). Another provision allowed two sidewalk counselors inside the buffer zones, but required them to "cease and desist" their counseling if the counselee so requested. In its accompanying opinion, the District Court, inter alia, rejected petitioners' assertion that the injunction violated their First Amendment right to free speech. The en banc Court of Appeals affirmed.
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