First Amendment Time Limit

July 30, 2007

University officials who have an ax to grind with the local student newspaper were handed a big present last week by the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled that a First Amendment lawsuit filed by two editors of the Kansas State Collegian became moot once the student editors graduated:

The ruling came in an appeal by two former editors of The Kansas State Collegian, who charged that their First Amendment rights were violated in 2004 when the university removed Ron Johnson, a journalism professor, as the newspaper’s adviser.

The appeals court ruled that “because defendants can no longer impinge upon plaintiffs’ exercise of freedom of the press, plaintiffs’ claims for declaratory and injunctive relief are moot.” The court went on to say that “there is no reasonable expectation that [the former editors] will be subjected, post-graduation, to censorship by defendants.”

The 10th Circuit ruling directly applies to cases in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming, but it can be cited as a precedent in other jurisdictions, a fact that should be noted by student newspapers everywhere. Court cases take a long time to play out, and by imposing this kind of time limit on First Amendment lawsuits, administrators will have one more incentive to dick around with papers that have become a thorn in their sides.

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One Response to “First Amendment Time Limit”

  1. Sarah Rice Says:

    Thanks for writing about our case. It’s a sad day for student press rights. We’ll continue trying to get the word out whether it’s through the court system or just in letting students know about the case so that it hopefully doesn’t happen to anyone else. It’s a frightening precedent, however.


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