On Monday, NCAC joined with other organizations on an friend of the court brief (.pdf) to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Barnes v. Zaccari, an important case involving the speech rights of college students.
The case began in 2007, when Hayden Barnes was expelled from Valdosta State University in Georgia over his vocal criticism of a plan to build a new parking garage on campus because of its environmental impact. VSU President Ronald Zaccari claimed that Barnes’ satirical facebook page about the plan was an implicit threat, at the same time that he admitted that Barnes’ actions had embarrassed him personally and that he “could not forgive” him. The trial court ducked the issue of whether Zaccari’s action was in retaliation for Barnes’ protest activities, but ruled that Zaccari had acted unconstitutionally in failing to provide Barnes with advance notice of the grounds for dismissal and an opportunity to respond.
As a result, Barnes prevailed on his claim that the college violated his constitutional right to due process of law, and was even awarded damages against the college president. However, the decision failed to vindicate his First Amendment rights, a wrong the brief asks the Court of Appeals to right.
NCAC also joined an amicus curiae brief on the Barnes case in April of 2011.
The brief was submitted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the Cato Institute, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Individual Rights Foundation, the Reason Foundation, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, Students For Liberty, and the Student Press Law Center.
This is the second brief we’ve supported in recent weeks.
On November 26, we joined with the Freedom to Read Foundation and other library and civil liberties groups, on a friend of the court brief in the case Arce v. Huppenthal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a state statute in Arizona (Arizona Revised Statute § 15-112[A]) which forced the disbandment of the successful Mexican-American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District. You can read the brief in full here.