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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Eleanor McCullen, Jean Zarrella, Gregory A. Smith, Eric Cadin, Cyril Shea, Mark Bashour, and Nancy Clark
Martha Coakley, Attorney General for the state of Massachusetts
Facts of the Case 

In 2009, the Massachusetts state legislature created a 35-foot buffer zone around the entrances, exits, and driveways of abortion clinics. The petitioners, individuals who routinely engage in “pro-life counseling” outside of state abortion clinics, sued in federal district court and argued that the law violated the First Amendment protection of free speech. The district court held that, although the law placed a restriction on the time, place, and manner of speech, the law was constitutional because it was content-neutral and still left adequate, if not perfect, alternative means of communications. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed and held that the Supreme Court, in Hill v. Colorado had already affirmed a similar statute in Colorado that prohibited certain activities within 100 feet of abortion clinics.


1. Did the First Circuit err in upholding the Massachusetts law under the First Amendment, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment?

2. If the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hill v. Colorado applies, should that ruling be limited or overruled?

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MCCULLEN v. COAKLEY. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 17 April 2014. <>.
MCCULLEN v. COAKLEY, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited April 17, 2014).
"MCCULLEN v. COAKLEY," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed April 17, 2014,