U.S. Third Circuit - The FindLaw 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Conviction of Anti-Abortion Protester on Liberty Bell Sidewalk Reversed

In US v. Marcavage, No. 09-3573, the Third Circuit faced a challenge to a conviction of defendant for violating the terms of a permit and interfering with agency function, arising from his refusal to move his anti-abortion demonstration from the sidewalk in front of Liberty Bell to a nearby location.

In vacating the conviction, the court held that the sidewalk at issue, as a thoroughfare sidewalk, seamlessly connected to public sidewalks at either end and intended for general public use, is a traditional public forum.  Here, the restrictions imposed on defendant were content-based as the park rangers' actions were motivated by the content of defendant's speech.  Therefore, the court held that the defendant's First Amendment right to free speech was impermissibly infringed because government's exclusion of defendant from the sidewalk cannot withstand strict scrutiny as the exclusion was neither narrowly tailored to serve the government's interests nor the least restrictive means of doing so.   

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