Monday, August 30, 2021

State cannot prove irreparable harm in abortion-clinic protest case

The State of New York sought a preliminary injunction against an anti-abortion group that was protesting an abortion clinic in Queens, New York, allegedly harassing patients and interfering with the clinic's operation. She did so under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and state law. The district court denied the injunction, and the Court of Appeals affirms.

The case is People of the State of New York v. Griepp, issued on August 26. This case previously went to the Court of Appeals last year, which remained the case to the district court on the basis of evidentiary errors. That was a complex ruling, with a dissent and extensive discussions of evidentiary rules that trial lawyers love but will put everyone else to sleep. The defendants asked the Court of Appeals to reconsider that ruling, hence this decision

The State loses the case on appeal because it did not prove irreparable harm, a necessary requirement for any preliminary injunction (you also have to prove likelihood of success on the merits). The case returns to the district court "for a full consideration of the merits." After all, since we are still at the preliminary injunctions stage, the court still has to resolve the case without an expedited schedule, presumable with further consideration of the evidence. It may not look good for the State on remand, as the district court has already ruled it cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits, but the losing party in the injunction context does get a second chance on a full record to change the judge's mind.

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