Court Makes Apparent About-Face, Allows Pickets At Doctor’s Home


The Supreme Court rejected Monday an Ohio community’s attempt to prohibit pickets from marching in front of an abortion doctor’s home.

The justices, without comment, left intact a lower court ruling that struck down an Upper Arlington, Ohio, ordinance that outlawed picketing of homes. The appeals court had ruled the law violated the protesters’ rights to free speech.

In other matters Monday, the high court:

Ruled in a Maryland case that convicted federal defendants are not entitled to have their sentences reduced by the time spent on restrictive bail before they were sentenced.

Agreed to use a Michigan dispute over a car used for illegal sex to decide whether innocent owners can be forced to give up property used in a crime without their knowledge.

Said it will decide in a California case whether there is a constitutional right to a jury trial in cases seeking to have a patent declared invalid.

Monday’s action in the abortion protest case, although not a precedent-setting decision, yielded a result that appeared to move in the opposite direction of a similar case acted on by the high court just one week ago.

In the earlier case, the justices let stand an injunction barring anti-abortion demonstrators from picketing within 100 feet of the New Jersey home of a doctor who performs abortions.

In each case, the court merely refused to review a lower court’s ruling and gave no reasons. In the New Jersey case, however, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a seven-page opinion in which he questioned previous high court rulings on picketing by abortion protesters.

He called such protesters a “currently disfavored class.” But in the Ohio case on Monday, abortion protesters emerged the legal victors.

Beginning in 1991, a group of anti-abortion activists from Dayton, Ohio, traveled about 75 miles to the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington at least three times to picket Dr. Raymond Robinson’s home.

Robinson, who had performed abortions in Dayton, lives in a home located on a cul-de-sac with just three other houses.

In response to complaints about the picketing, the City Council enacted an ordinance stating, “No person shall engage in picketing before or about the residence or dwelling of any individual in this city.”


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