September 14, 2015

BOSTON – A federal appeals court ruled that the City of Portland’s ban on being in medians is unconstitutional, upholding a district court ruling that struck down the ban. The ruling came Friday in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Maine and the law firm Goodwin Proctor LLP on behalf of three Portland residents. The lawsuit challenged an ordinance enacted by Portland that prohibited being in any median for any reason other than crossing the street.

“This is a really important victory, not only for our clients but for free speech across the country,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director of the ACLU of Maine. “More and more cities and towns are using ordinances like this to try to keep certain people out of public view. This decision is a reminder that those people have First Amendment rights, too.”

The ACLU and the Goodwin Procter LLP filed the lawsuit on September 25, 2013. On February 14, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine declared the ordinance unconstitutional. The city appealed that ruling.

In his ruling, Judge David Barron of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit wrote, “The City may have been motivated by a perfectly understandable desire to protect the public from the dangers posed by people lingering in median strips. But the City chose too sweeping a means of doing so, given the First Amendment interest in protecting the public's right to freedom of speech.”

The ruling is available here: