(August 10, 2023 – Rochester, NY) Jim Havens—a Rochester, New York, area pro-life advocate—has been vindicated in his lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James and the City of Rochester, after both state and city denied him the right to approach an abortion facility to speak in favor of life. Thomas More Society attorneys represented Jim Havens when he and the sidewalk counseling organization he founded, ROC Love Will End Abortion, were banned from sharing information about abortion and offering life-affirming alternatives outside of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility on University Avenue in Rochester.
The reason given for this violation of his First Amendment rights was a court-ordered injunction issued against different parties in a 2005 court action. “Of course, when a court enjoins a person in a legal proceeding from engaging in something that is ordinarily legal, it does not prohibit others who were not involved in that legal proceeding from engaging in that activity,” said Thomas Olp, Thomas More Society Executive Vice President. “When the Thomas More Society pointed that out to the City of Rochester in September 2018, the city agreed and notified us that Havens and ROC would not be covered by the existing injunction.”
“But that position was reversed when the State of New York got involved. For that reason, Havens and ROC sued the State and City to secure his First Amendment rights and to prevent them from applying the 2005 injunction—in which he was not named—to him and his ministry,” continued Olp. “The federal court in the Western District of New York denied him those rights, claiming that because he knew—and had associated—with some of those individuals to which the 2005 prohibition applied, that he was ‘in active concert or participation’ with them. The court then dismissed Mr. Havens’ case with prejudice.”
“We then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit,” Olp explained, “and the appeals Court agreed with our initial position. The Court reversed the lower court’s decision and declared that Jim Havens and ROC—who were not named parties in the litigation resulting in the 2005 injunction and not legally identified with those who are—cannot be bound by it.”
The lawsuit was sent back to the lower court with orders to apply the appellate court’s opinion restoring Havens’ and ROC’s First Amendment rights.
Read the Decision issued August 4, 2023, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Havens v. James as argued by Thomas More Society on September 29, 2020, on Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, here.