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Fitzgerald v. City of Portland

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 27, 2014

DANIEL FITZGERALD, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF PORTLAND, et al., Defendants.

ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

NANCY TORRESEN, District Judge.

Before the Court is the Defendants' motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 41). For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

The Plaintiffs in this action are Daniel Fitzgerald, Marguerite Fitzgerald, in their own right and as next of kin to minor children, L.M.F., J.P.F., and Leslie Sneddon (the "Plaintiffs"). The Defendants are the City of Portland, Michael F. Brennan, Kevin J. Donoghue, David A. Marshall, Edward J. Suslovic, Cheryl A. Leeman, John R. Coyne, Jon C. Hinck, Nicholas M. Mavodones, Jr., and Jill C. Duson (the "Defendants").

On November 18, 2013, the Portland City Council voted 9-0 to enact an ordinance titled "Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities" (the "Ordinance"). See Portland, Me., Code § 17-108-112 (2013) (repealed July 7, 2014). The Ordinance prohibited anyone other than clinic visitors, employees, law enforcement, passers-by, and public-transit users from entering within thirty-nine feet of any reproductive health care facility ("RHCF") in Portland. Id. at § 17-110. The Ordinance affected a single RHCF, run by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, located in downtown Portland. The stated purpose of the Ordinance was "to balance both the fundamental right to assemble peacefully and to demonstrate on matters of public concern, with the right to seek and obtain reproductive health care services." Id. at § 17-108(e).

The Ordinance was modeled after a Massachusetts law passed in 2007, titled "An Act Relative to Public Safety at Reproductive Health Care Facilities" (the "Massachusetts Act"). See Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 266 § 120E ½ (2014), invalidated by McCullen v. Coakley, 134 S.Ct. 2518 (2014), repealed by 2014 Mass. Legis. Serv. Ch. 197 (S.B. 2283) (West). The Massachusetts Act withstood repeated constitutional challenges in the District of Massachusetts and the First Circuit. See McCullen v. Coakley, 573 F.Supp.2d 382 (D. Mass. 2008) (denying facial challenge to the Massachusetts Act); McCullen v. Coakley, 571 F.3d 167 (1st Cir. 2009) (affirming denial of facial challenge); McCullen v. Coakley, 759 F.Supp.2d 133 (D. Mass. 2010) (dismissing all but one as-applied challenge to the Massachusetts Act); McCullen v. Coakley, 844 F.Supp.2d 206 (D. Mass. 2012) (dismissing remaining as-applied challenge to the Massachusetts Act); McCullen v. Coakley, 708 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2013) (affirming dismissal of as-applied challenges).[1] Some of the McCullen plaintiffs appealed, and on June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court granted certiorari. See McCullen v. Coakley, 708 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2013), cert. granted, 81 U.S.L.W. 3557 (U.S. June 24, 2013) (No. 12-1168).

On February 12, 2014, with McCullen v. Coakley still pending before the Supreme Court, Plaintiffs initiated the present action by filing a complaint (the "Original Complaint") (ECF No. 1) claiming that the Ordinance, on its face and as applied, violated rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. On March 10, 2014, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint (the "Amended Complaint") (ECF No. 16) and a motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the Ordinance (ECF No. 17). Shortly thereafter, the Defendants filed a motion to stay the case pending a ruling from the Supreme Court (ECF No. 21).

In April of 2014, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint ("MTD I") (ECF No. 23) as it pertained to each of the individually-named City Council members (the "Individual Defendants" or the "City Council Members"), asserting that they were entitled to qualified immunity. The Defendants argued that notwithstanding the Supreme Court's grant of certiorari, when the City Council Members voted to pass the Ordinance, they were acting pursuant to valid First Circuit authority upholding the similar Massachusetts Act regarding buffer zones around reproductive health care centers. MTD I 5 (citing McCullen v. Coakley, 708 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2013)).

This Court denied the Defendants' motion to stay the case on May 28, 2014 (ECF No. 33). The Supreme Court held on June 26, 2014, that the Massachusetts Act was not narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and therefore violated the First Amendment. See McCullen v. Coakley, 134 S.Ct. 2518 (2014). At that time, this Court had not yet ruled on the Plaintiffs' Preliminary Injunction Motion or the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss I.

In response to the Supreme Court's McCullen ruling, the City Council met on July 7, 2014 and voted to repeal the Ordinance, effective immediately. See July 8, 2014 Aff. of Katherine L. Jones (ECF No. 41-1); Portland City Council Order 10-14/15 (ECF No. 41-2). The Defendants now move to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), [2] asserting that the City Council's repeal of the Ordinance has rendered all issues before this Court moot and that Plaintiffs have no remaining claims upon which relief may be granted. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Pls.' First Am. Compl. 3 ("MTD II") (ECF No. 41).

LEGAL STANDARD

Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction: Rule 12(b)(1)

"The doctrine of mootness enforces the mandate that an actual controversy must be extant at all stages of the review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed.'" Davidson v. Howe, 749 F.3d 21, 26 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Am. Civil Liberties Union of Mass. v. U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 705 F.3d 44, 52 (1st Cir. 2013)). "Simply stated, a case is moot when the issues presented are no longer live' or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.'" Am. Civil Liberties Union of Mass., 705 F.3d at 52 (quoting D.H.L. Assocs., Inc. v. O'Gorman, 199 F.3d 50, 54 (1st Cir. 1999)). Further, "[i]f events have transpired to render a court opinion merely advisory, Article III considerations require dismissal of the case.'" Am. Civil Liberties Union of Mass., 705 F.3d at 52-53 (quoting ...


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