The city of Courtland: Maine’s biggest berg faces legal challenges on multiple fronts

Anyone following Portland news right now knows that the city has been sued recently both for its ordinance preventing people from standing in the median strips and for denying a citizens’ petition that would have jeopardized its sale of Congress Square Park to private hotel developers.

We’ve got plenty in the archives on both of those stories — click the included hyperlinks for all the background you want on Congress Square and the median strips, respectively.

If court drama’s your thing, the city could soon be facing another legal challenge next month. The City Council in November will consider passing a 39-foot buffer zone around the Congress Street Planned Parenthood offices as a way of driving back anti-abortion protesters. Those protesters have reportedly said they’ll sue if the ordinance passes, marking the third significant time in the last couple of years the city of Portland finds itself in court facing allegations of trampling on the free speech rights of its residents.

(That’s also the complaint in the median strip case, where plaintiffs argue that holding signs seeking money — or anything else — in the public medians constitutes constitutionally protected speech, and in the OccupyMaine case from late 2011. OccupyMaine, which camped for about five months in a community of tents in the publicly owned Lincoln Park, legally challenged the city’s right to remove them from the space on free speech grounds. The city won the first round in court with the occupiers, and the demonstrators at that point decided to drop their pursuit of the case.)

On this week’s edition of the Ink & Pine podcast, Portland’s neighborhood prosecutor Trish McAllister joins me, Maine Digital Press President Dan Bodoff and Dylan Martin from The Forecaster to talk about the two cases above in which she’s played a lead legal role: The median strip ordinance and the Planned Parenthood buffer.

Why doesn’t the city believe it’s trampling the constitutional rights of demonstrators? McAllister tells us. Click here to listen to this week’s Ink & Pine.

As I’ve mentioned on past posts about the podcast, this is really intended to be just another way for us to get information from the BDN family of media partners into the hands (or ears) of news consumers. Sifting through dozens of archived stories (the links are right up above, remember) may not be for everybody. With Ink & Pine, we’ve brought in a guest each week with an expertise or perspective that may help people better understand a complicated issue facing Greater Portland. Because it’s hard to read the BDN website on your smartphone while running on a treadmill or commuting home after work, the podcast is available as another way to digest the material.

And as I’ve said before, if straight news isn’t your thing, Dan has other options for you through Maine Digital Press, including fun shows about local music and food, things Portland is known for.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.