Disciplined Law Student Appears Before Disciplined Judge in Case Against Regent University

Law Student Adam Key, 23, is learning the practical elements of a first amendment case from his school, Regent University — though not under the usual clinical conditions. He is suing the University after he claims it violated his right to free speech last November in suspending for posting an unflattering picture of Pat Robertson on the Internet. Ironically, his case was heard by a judge who knows something about suspensions and discipline. Judge Samuel Kent, who was disciplined for misconduct himself and has been suspended from hearing criminal cases. He is believed to still be under criminal investigation for sexual assault and other crimes — and could face impeachment with another Fifth Circuit judge (click here).

Key alleges that Regent recruited him with a false promise of a standard legal education, including a community that valued free speech. (For full disclosure, I once gave a speech at Regents on free exercise of religion, free association, and other constitutional rights). He was given a full scholarship. He has added Robertson as a defendant. In his lawsuit, he wants to clean his disciplinary record from Regent, recover fees he paid for his unfinished third semester at the law school, and damages for embarrassment as well as emotional pain and suffering. He is now completing an interdisciplinary studies master’s degree at Stephen F. Austin State University and intends to enroll this fall as a second-year student at the University of Houston Law Center.

Key insists that he merely posted a picture as a joke after Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Key changed a picture of Robertson to show an obscene gesture. Wen he was threatened with discipline by school officials, he took the picture down. He later added the picture to a condemnation of the school’s free speech and obscenity policies. Kent will now decide these initials question, despite his own precarious status, click here

While Key has legitimate objections to how Regents responded to his posting, his complaint is a long shot. Such challenges rarely succeed. It is not fraud, even if the school is wrong in how it reacted to the posting. He stands a better shot in objecting to the ABA over the accreditation of the law school, but even that is unlikely to result in serious action. Putting aside the legal merits, Regents has always struggled with its two missions — at least in the view of outsiders. It has a talented faculty and student body. However, it risks the image of a cult of personality when its students cannot exercise first amendment rights in the criticism of the Administration. Robertson’s statement regarding Chavez was bizarre and legitimately subject to scorn. Key was a bit juvenile in his chosen criticism but there is no question that it was an exercise of free speech. Notably, it was Robertson’s counterpart in the religious movement, Jerry Falwell, who helped establish the protection of parody before the Supreme Court in a case against Hustler magazine. (Click here).

Of course, Regents is not a state actor. However, as a legal educational institution, it must do more than teach first amendment values. It must also show a modicum of restraint in allowing such speech within its own community.

For the full story, click  here

84 thoughts on “Disciplined Law Student Appears Before Disciplined Judge in Case Against Regent University”

  1. Susan: Your quote is from George Santayana who knew a think or two about history. You are right that sometimes justice gets perverted by sentiment. Normally that doesn’t happen but Judges who have sat too long or prosecutors who are up for reelection get nervous about their positions and go after cases that should be dropped. I blame the Judges more however since after a time most feel they are part of the government instead of merely being the referee. Only the most egregious violators go before any review panel and even then sanctions are few and far between.

  2. Susan wrote:
    “I don’t think anyone who values freedom of conscience and free speech wants that either.”

    Blast, I hit “submit” too soon. I should have added “to name just two of our most cherished rights” after the word “speech.” My apologies for the oversight. 🙂

  3. Very true, Mespo, we are supposed to better than the accused criminals, no matter what the charges may be. Unfortunately, I have read of too many real-life cases where the constitutional presumption of innocence was completely trashed, and innocent people accused of heinous crimes were tried in highly biased courts, and — not surprisingly — convicted.

    As one tragic and appalling example, the notorious Bakersfield CA “child molestation ring” cases of the 1980’s, which is outlined in detail in Edward Humes’ book, perfectly named MEAN JUSTICE. The atmosphere in the courts when these defendants were tried, according to Mr. Humes, bore a stark resemblance to the equally infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692-93; only the type of offense had changed.

    Just to compare the two time periods almost 300 years apart at the time, I read another book, called THE DEVIL IN MASSACHUSETTS, by Marion L. Starkey, which was “a modern enquiry into the Salem Witch Trials.” I couldn’t believe it; the methods used to target both “witches” in the 1690s and “child molesters” in the 1980s was almost EXACTLY THE SAME. Kids were being used by law enforcement in both sets of unjust prosecutions to go around the area and point the finger at the so-called “perpetrators.” In the witch trials accusations, the prosecutions suddenly ceased because the girls pointed the finger at the wife of a very prominent minister, and maybe one other prominent individual. Almost the same thing happened in Bakersfield CA, the kids (both boys and girls) began pointing accusing fingers at some prominent people in local law enforcement. But the terrible damage had already been done; wrongful executions in Salem MA, and wrongful convictions in Bakersfield CA. At least in Bakersfield, however, the defendants were eventually exonerated and released, although some served more than 10 or 15 years in prison for crimes they not only NEVER committed, but which actually NEVER happened.

    Sorry for the ramble into the past, but I also agree with the person (I forget who at the moment) who said (roughly), “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” These parts of the past, and many others like it, are what we as a people do NOT want to see repeated, and what should be avoided, to the best of our ability. So I will take the walk back into the past, when I feel it is necessary. There are those who believe we shouldn’t even HAVE a Constitution or a Bill of Rights in this country, and would love to see it all but eliminated. I suppose they have a right to feel this way. I just wish they would physically MOVE to a country like Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, or China, or Cuba instead of trying to turn the United States into their version of the same. I don’t want that horrible kind of government, which only offers the terror of tyranny, with justice for NONE. I don’t think anyone who values freedom of conscience and free speech wants that either.

  4. Susan: Read your remarks and I think you’re right on the money. I do add that for a lawyer to decline a case simply because he doesn’t like the client’s cause is unethical. If not, very few accused murders or child abusers would ever have counsel. Our job is to advocate and not to judge. Some lawyers lose sight of that as do lots of judges. I think it honorable to let every citizen have his say whether the lawyer detests it or not. Even a terrorist has the right to bring his case, and fortunately some lawyer is there to articulate it. It’s what separates us from the terrorists who are from a culture where grievances are resolved by violence because the opposition can never have a voice. As with Churchill’s famous quote, we are merely the roar of the lion and not the beast itself.

  5. Good morning, DW, and everyone! DW, sorry I couldn’t stay awake longer. I have a high-schooler DS, and 5:30am comes early. 🙂

    Okay, where were we in last night’s discussion? Right, Secular Humanism v. Evangelicals. First of all, I DO consider myself a secular humanist, so Jay would probably say I have a “dog in the fight.” Not that it matters, since no religion is required to be an American citizen or patriot. I remember reading a rather snarky remark by George Bush Sr. a few years ago regarding atheists; something along the lines of “…nor do I consider them patriots. This is one nation under God.” (REALLY. Since WHEN!)

    I completely agree with your definition of a Secular Humanist, and with what you said about it being possible to be a religionist and a humanist at the same time. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State does both very well. I believe he is also a minister! He wrote a book very recently, which I promply grabbed from the library and read. Excellent book (I’d expect no less from Rev. Lynn), but darn it, I can’t recall the title right now. Grrrrrr.

    I confess to having used the term religionist in a negative light up to now. From now on, I’ll qualify it by saying “militant religionst,” who is, in my view, someone who thinks religion should control ALL aspects of life, preferably THEIR religion, whether others want it or not. Funny how the Evangelicals fit that description perfectly, wouldn’t you say?

    Getting back to the actual case, I agree with JT that Key’s case is a long shot at best. I believe, although I could easily be mistaken, that as a private university, Regent has the legal right to set policies that students might not like or agree with. My guess, the university will probably make the argument that Key should have better educated himself on all of the school’s policies BEFORE enrolling at the university. And Regent will probably win too.

    As an individual who values free speech, including the right to criticize ‘leaders’ like Pat Robertson publicly, the LAST place I would have enrolled in is a college that places Evangelical Christian ideology at the top of the list.

  6. Wait Susan!

    The night-owl DW is still up, though even he is flagging at this hour.

    Mespo’s message to you of hope was great and I agree wholeheartedly.

    Don’t let the state of the union (or that of the world) get you down!

    Change can come very fast. And tyrannies can crumble very fast.

    Your comments to Jay are on the money. The evangelicals like to think that secular humanism is itself a religion, but of course they are wrong. They conflate, because it is advantageous for them to do so, belief systems and religions. Its like conflating darkness and light. Darkness is the mere absence of light…it is not a different KIND of light. Secular humanism can be the absence of belief in a religion, not a different KIND of religion. And even if it were a religion, it definitely isn’t one within the usage of the term when the Framers were writing the First Amendment.

    I would argue further that one can be a perfectly good religionist and still be a secular humanist at the same time!

  7. DeeplyWorried wrote:
    Well, I can see that there are at least three people on this continent not watching the Oscars!

    Congratulations to the three of us!

    Make that four, please. Okay, NOW I’m really going. I KNEW I shouldn’t have scrolled up. 🙂

  8. Jay
    “Schools are not churches or places of religious indoctrination or religious practice.”

    Nope. Just places of indoctrination of secular humanism and/or atheism depending on your point of view. 🙂


    And secular humanism and/or atheism are “bad” things….why, exactly? Because some schools insist on adherence to the first words of the First Amendment? You know, the part that goes, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

    And here I was thinking the mixing of religion with government was precisely what that amendment was written to PROHIBIT. How silly of me. 🙂

    Darn, looks like I arrived when everyone has already gone for the night. Hate it when that happens. Okay, good night all. I’ll turn off the “light.”

  9. “If a client’s interests are directly contrary to the tenets of the brand of Christian faith advocated by Pat Robertson, how can any one of Regent’s graduates represent that client?”

    The way I see it, I doubt any of Regent’s graduates would represent that client in any way that could be considered effective. Especially not if the lawyer has a strong Evangelical Christian bias and the client is either a non-Christian or “worse” (according to Robertson), an atheist or agnostic. It would end up as a constant clashing of verbal “swords,” and nothing positive could come out of such a representation.

  10. “The reason I like my job is that, in my own very small way, I get to be on the edge of that social change. I like to think Professor Turley feels the same way. That’s why I so enjoy this blog. I am very happy you decided to be more involved with the law and learn about it. As I tell high schoolers, from the moment you get up until you lay your head on the pillow at night, the law is there to protect you in ways you cannot even imagine. It is really fascinating how we have developed this intricate system that we lawyers call the “seamless web.” Be ecstatic — there never was a better time to be alive! ”

    Mespo, thanks so much for this reply. I’m copying part of it only because the “party” started again, and figured I should use a quote for my latest reply, so no one (including me lol) would get confused. I so enjoy this blog too, and I thank JT so much for creating it. It was his and KO’s discussions on COUNTDOWN that led me here, and being part of any serious discussions about positive changes is a pleasure and a privilege for me. 🙂

  11. One last thing: it isn’t JS.

    JS would never allow my little test probe about moments of silence go unchallenged without reminding all of us of Brown, etc.

    As Mespo says, can’t win ’em all!

  12. “Schools are not churches or places of religious indoctrination or religious practice.”

    Nope. Just places of indoctrination of secular humanism and/or atheism depending on your point of view 🙂

  13. Deeply, You caught me. I am just off to watch my favorite show: Law & Order: CI. We shall resume this later. Good night Jay!

  14. Deeply,

    As Geo. Bernard Shaw so elegantly said: “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.” That’s why government sanctioned religion never works. Substitute “Quo’ran” or “Bhagavadgītā” for “Bible” and you see just how prescient Shaw’s words are.”

  15. Well, I can see that there are at least three people on this continent not watching the Oscars!

    Congratulations to the three of us!

  16. Add “designated moments of silence” to that also Jay. Schools are not churches or places of religious indoctrination or religious practice.

    Nor should they be forced to be, sorry ACLJ!

  17. Jay. I wouldn’t be so quick to applaud. The corollary is that not all religions can be right. In fact, they all lay claim to being the one true religion. And if so, all the wrong ones are condemning their followers to eternal damnation–if you believe in that sort of thing. Not exactly cause for celebration.

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