McCullen v. Coakley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
McCullen v. Coakley
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 15, 2014
Decided June 26, 2014
Full case name Eleanor McCullen, et al., Petitioners v. Martha Coakley, Attorney General of Massachusetts, et al.
Docket nos. 12-1168
Citations 573 U.S. ___ (more)
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Roberts, joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan
Concurrence Scalia, joined by Kennedy, Thomas
Concurrence Alito
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I

McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U.S. ___ (2014), was a United States Supreme Court case. The Court unanimously held that Massachusetts' 35-feet fixed abortion buffer zones, established via amendments to that state's Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act, violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it limited free speech too broadly.


Massachusetts' Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act, originally passed in 2000, was amended in 2007 to create a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health care facilities. The Act was challenged under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Opinion of the Court[edit]

Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court, writing that, "The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve [Massachusetts'] asserted inter­ests."[1] He stated that Massachusetts failed to show that it tried less intrusive alternatives first:

Although respond­ents claim that Massachusetts 'tried other laws already on the books', they identify not a single prosecu­tion brought under those laws within at least the last 17 years. And while they also claim that the Commonwealth 'tried injunctions', the last injunctions they cite date to the 1990s. In short, the Commonwealth has not shown that it seriously undertook to address the problem with less intrusive tools readily available to it. Nor has it shown that it considered different methods that other jurisdic­tions have found effective.[2]

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. He disagreed with Roberts' analysis in considering whether the law is content-based and thus subject to strict scrutiny.[3] Instead, he wrote that the buffer zones were unconstitutional because its primary purpose was just "to 'protect' prospective clients of abortion clinics from having to hear abortion-opposing speech on public streets and sidewalks".[4]

Associate Justice Samuel Alito also filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, stating that the law blatantly discriminates based on viewpoint. He noted that while anti-abortion supporters criticizing the clinic may not enter the zone, clinic counselors or other employees may do so, giving them opportunities to talk to prospective clients.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U. S., (slip op., at 23)
  2. ^ McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U. S., (slip op., at 27)
  3. ^ McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U. S., (slip op., at 10)
  4. ^ McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U. S., (Scalia, concurring slip op., at 15)
  5. ^ McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U. S., (Alito, concurring slip op., at 2-3)

External links[edit]