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State v. Ingalls

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

October 9, 2017

STATE OF MAINE, Plaintiff
v.
BRIAN INGALLS, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          Lance E. Walker, Justice Superior Court.

         I. Background

         A. Factual background

         Defendant Brian Ingalls is a Christian man who believes that "abortion is sinful because it is an act that deliberately destroys innocent human life." (Ingalls Aff. ¶ 4). He feels compelled by his faith to share his beliefs. Id. In order to share his beliefs, Defendant Ingalls prayed, counseled, and preached outside of the Planned Parenthood at 443 Congress Street, Portland, Maine, on a weekly basis for approximately six months. (Ingalls Aff. ¶ 5). He goes with a group of similar minded individuals to protest and share his faith on Friday mornings because the group understands that abortion procedures occur on Friday mornings.

         As a member of this group, Defendant has preached on the sidewalk outside of 443 Congress Street in order to convince women to "choose life for their unborn child." (Ingalls aff. ¶ 6). As may be seen in a YouTube video, submitted as State's Exhibit 2, Defendant Ingalls would stand on the sidewalk in front of 443 Congress Street and direct his message up towards the second floor where he understood the Planned Parenthood offices to be. Planned Parenthood staff made noise complaints concerning Defendant Ingalls volume prior to the date in question.[1]

         State's Exhibit 1 includes an audio clip recorded by Officer Shinay on August 21, 2015 of his conversations with Ingalls both preemptively and after a noise complaint was called in by the Planned Parenthood staff concerning his preaching. While Ingalls disagreed with Officer Shinay about whether he should be required to, Ingalls did preach more quietly after their conversation. Ingalls testified that he and Officer Holts had previously worked out a method for helping Ingalls comply with noise level restrictions when Officer Holts was covering the Planned Parenthood facilities. Officer Holts would give Ingalls a thumbs-down signal from his police cruiser if he needed to lower the volume and a thumbs-up signal if the volume was acceptable.

         On the morning of October 23, 2015, Defendant Ingalls was directing his preaching towards the second floor of the building at 443 Congress St. The State contends that Defendant was loud enough to be heard in the examination and counseling rooms, thereby disrupting counseling that was occurring. Planned Parenthood staff made a noise complaint to the Portland Police Department, which was responded to by Sgt. Eric Nevins. Sgt. Nevins spoke with Ingalls and asked that he lower his voice to a level that could not be heard within the building. After Sgt. Nevins left the vicinity, the staff of Planned Parenthood again contends that they were able to hear Ingalls inside the building and that he was disrupting medical services being provided. Another noise complaint was made and Sgt. Nevins again came to the Planned Parenthood facility. Ingalls saw Sgt. Nevins enter the building, but had left by the time Sgt. Nevins came back down to talk to him.

         B. Procedural Background

         The State of Maine has brought this action against Ingalls for violation of the Maine Civil Rights Act pursuant to 5 M.R.S. § 4681. The State moves the court to grant a preliminary injunction. Ingalls objects, alleging that the imposition of an injunction would violate his First Amendment right to free speech pursuant to the U.S. Constitution.

         II. Discussion

         The State seeks injunctive relief pursuant to the Maine Civil Rights Act, prohibiting Defendant Ingalls from "intentionally making any noise that can be heard within the building at 443 Congress Street in Portland, Maine or any other Planned Parenthood facility". The Maine Civil Rights Act authorizes the Attorney General to bring actions for injunctive relief against an individual who intentionally interferes with another person's exercise of constitutionally guaranteed rights. 5 M.R.S. § 4681. The Act specifies that an action may be brought where an individual, "[a]fter having been ordered by a law enforcement officer to cease such noise, intentionally mak[es] noise that can be heard within a building and with the further intent either: (1) To jeopardize the health of persons receiving health services within the building; or (2) To interfere with the safe and effective delivery of those services within the building." 5 M.R.S. § 4684-B. The State contends that Defendant Ingalls, after having been ordered by a law enforcement officer to lower his voice while preaching outside of the Planned Parenthood facility on many occasions, continued to intentionally make noise that could be heard within the building with the intent to interfere with the safe and effective delivery of health services. Therefore, the State argues, they are more likely than not to prevail on the merits and the preliminary injunction should be granted.

         Ingalls objects to the restriction of his right to free speech pursuant to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as incorporated to the State of Maine by the Fourteenth Amendment.[2] Defendant Ingalls contends that the proposed injunction is impermissibly based upon the content of his speech. A content-based regulation is only constitutional where the regulation is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and it is narrowly tailored to achieve that end. Perry Ed. Assn. v. Perry Local Educators' Assn., 460 U.S. 37, 45 (1983). "The principal inquiry in determining content neutrality, in speech cases generally and in time, place, or manner cases in particular, is whether the government has adopted a regulation of speech because of disagreement with the message it conveys." Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 791 (U.S. 1989). Thus, the court looks to the underlying regulation, not the injunction itself, to determine whether the restriction is content based.[3]

         In Madsen v. Women's Health Center, the Supreme Court explained the difference between an injunction and legislation in terms of review of the government action for compliance with the First Amendment. An ordinance is enacted through a reasoned choice by the legislature, whereas injunctions are remedies to violations of legislative regulation or judicial order. Madsen v. Women's Health Ctr., 512 U.S. 753, 764 (1994). "An injunction, by its very nature, applies only to a particular group (or individuals) and regulates the activities, and perhaps the speech, of that group." Id. at 764. Therefore, "the fact that the injunction cover[s] people with a particular viewpoint does not itself render the injunction content or viewpoint based." Id. at 763, citing Boos v. Barry, 485 U.S. 312 (1988).

         Because injunctions are more likely to be used discriminatorily or in an effort to censor, the Supreme Court has imposed a stringent application of First Amendment principles requiring that the "provisions of the injunction burden no more speech than necessary ...


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