Near Unanimous Supreme Court Rules Against Georgia Gwinnett College In Free Speech Victory

If Georgia Gwinnett College wanted to foster greater unity in its use of “free speech zones,” it succeeded in prompting a near unanimous Supreme Court in ruling against it in favor of free speech this week. The Court voted 8-1 that two former students should be able to sue for nominal or symbolic damages to avoid mootness on their challenges.  Only Chief Justice John Roberts stood against the ability of the two former students to sue over the loss of free speech rights.

For the record, I have been a longtime critic of “free speech zones” which many professors and administrators pushed to limit the ability of groups and individuals to speak on campus.  This case involves Chike Uzuegbunam, a former Georgia Gwinnett College student who wanted to share his religious views with other students. He was prevented twice by campus police in 2016 from handing out religious literature.  He was told by the director of the college’s Office of Student Integrity that he had to apply for a permit and confine his speech to two designated “free speech expression areas.” Yet, when Uzuegbunam received a permit, he was again prevented from speaking because a security office told him that students had complained that he was disturbing the peace. A second student also claims to have been prevented from speaking under the policies and permitting.

Georgia Gwinnett College seemed to grasp for any claim to keep the students from speaking. It first said that their speech constituted incitement akin to “fighting words.”  It then eliminated the policies and sought to dismiss the lawsuits as moot. It is a common pattern where universities will force students or academics to go to court and then later drop the cases when it is clear that they may lose.

The Supreme Court has now said enough. Literally. Nominal damages are enough to allow citizens to litigate the loss of free speech rights.

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski that “it is undisputed that Uzuegbunam experienced a completed violation of his constitutional rights when respondents enforced their speech policies against him. Because ‘every violation [of a right] imports damage,’ nominal damages can redress Uzuegbunam’s injury even if he cannot or chooses not to quantify that harm in economic terms.”

Roberts dismissed the interest in vindicating such rights and insisted that if plaintiffs asked for a dollar for damages, they should just be given a dollar and sent on their way: “Going forward, the judiciary will be required to perform this function whenever a plaintiff asks for a dollar. For those who want to know if their rights have been violated, the least dangerous branch will become the least expensive source of legal advice.”

Yet, Roberts would again elevate Article III over free speech rights. His approach would continue to allow schools and other entities to avoid accountability because all that was lost was speech and not something more tangible like a scooter or a scanner.

Thomas disagreed with Roberts on the historical treatment of nominal damages by figures like Justice Story and further noted:

That this rule developed at common law is unsurprising in the light of the noneconomic rights that individuals had at that time. A contrary rule would have meant, in many cases, that there was no remedy at all for those rights, such as due process or voting rights, that were not readily reducible to monetary valuation. … By permitting plaintiffs to pursue nominal damages whenever they suffered a personal legal injury, the common law avoided the oddity of privileging small-dollar economic rights over important, but not easily quantifiable, nonpecuniary rights.

This is a great decision for the vindication of free speech.

Here is the opinion: Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski

123 thoughts on “Near Unanimous Supreme Court Rules Against Georgia Gwinnett College In Free Speech Victory”

  1. The issue of “free speech zones” at GGC was addressed by students back in 2013:

    The then president of the GGC chapter of YAL (Young Americans for Liberty) stood up at a “town hall” meeting comprised of hundreds of students, the entire SGA, and various faculty and administrators. He highlighted the report by The FIRE on GGC’s abysmal “free speech” policy. The student body unanimously agreed with his words, as was evident by their raucous applause. The administrators, on the other hand, didn’t agree with The FIRE’s assessment. The result of the town hall revelations were meetings held between the organizations (YAL and Pride Alliance) that spearheaded the effort and Dr. Stas Preczewski, but, of course, nothing came of it.

    This latest update is surprising and inspiring! Could this set a precedent for the “free speech” policy of USG (University System of Georgia) schools, and, perhaps, for the schools across the country?

  2. By the way, Roberts is either a pansy dunce or badly compromised. Here’s hoping he’s compromised because dunces tend to live forever.

  3. OK Trumpsters, the grift is still on and you’re the mark.

    “The former president this week escalated a standoff over the Republican Party’s financial future, blasting party leaders and urging his backers to send donations to his new political action committee — not to the institutional groups that traditionally control the G.O.P.’s coffers.

    “No more money for RINOS,” he said in a statement released on Monday by his bare-bones post-presidential office, referring to Republicans In Name Only. He directed donors to his own website instead.

    The aggressive move against his own party is the latest sign that Mr. Trump is trying to wrest control of the low-dollar online fund-raising juggernaut he helped create, diverting it from Republican fund-raising groups toward his own committee, which has virtually no restrictions on how the money can be spent….”

    1. Good for Trump. We don’t need authoritarian Democrats or their influence on wobbly Republicans.

    2. I’m sure that he’ll want to spend at least some of it on his own debts. Some of his remaining campaign debt is owed to a shell company run by Brad Parscale and Jared Kushner, so he’ll be funneling more campaign money into his family’s pockets. For all I know, he’ll also try to use some of it to pay his own legal expenses. Why pay for anything himself if he can get his supporters to pay for it?

      1. The Democrat juggernaut is a well oiled machine compared to the Republican toothless hot air balloon! With Trump, finally someone capable of countering the Democrats, has arrived. Almost too late.

    3. “which has no restrictions on how the money will be spent..” There are currently no restrictions on who in the Repub party can use these images to push whatever garbage they want or to opportunistically align themselves with the former President.
      More power to him. Let the politicians use words if they want to be heard.

  4. Big chance for the GOP to prove they’re the working man’s party. The House just passed a labor rights bill returning union rights stripped over the years by the GOP. Let;s go Senators. Prove you got something besides resentment to offer blue collar voters. PS We know none of the GOP posters here have calluses though they talk a tough game. Take their showers in the morning and probably have a cocktail with lunch.

    “Live Updates: House Passes Sweeping Expansion of Labor Rights; Senate Prospects Are Dim
    The House approved a bill that would neutralize right-to-work laws in 27 states and bolster workers’ ability to unionize. …”

    1. Think JF., unions produce both good and bad. Democrats appeal mostly to the union leaders.

      Blind support for unions is foolish. A prime example specifically is the NYC teachers union that prevents minority students from getting the education they deserve and need.

    2. The unions urged their members to vote for the man who just cost them their jobs.

    3. “union rights”……. be in a skilled trade and find out what unions really do. It is hardly good nor great for that skilled worker. And be in a situation where a union vote is pushed and find out the unions can vocalize every lie known and are not held to that , yet the employer is effectively and legally silenced in such an event.
      And now under senile lord darth biden of chyna the goobermint wants to enhance unionist organizer activists abilities to ruin businesses , drive up costs and drive down jobs.

  5. I notice that Feminist Governor Cuomo has had yet another woman come forward and accuse him of acting like a guy.

    Nothing that has been described strikes me as being much more than merely obnoxious in a way that most women deal with easily. He has enemies, made a lot of them because besides being a feminist he is apparently a bully, and they prefer to take him down with this than with the homicides in nursing homes. Other Democrat governors have done the same and if Cuomo is in trouble for killing old folks they might be too. Too much collateral damage I suppose.

    But Governor Whitmer might be facing prosecution from a Michigan district attorney. Reports are that he is seeking families whose loved ones were killed by the decision to send plague victims among the vulnerable in nursing homes.

  6. “Brought to you by S(tupid) Meyer.”

    Anonymous the Stupid, since you liked the others so much I am bringing yet another. I wonder if your angry response is revealing your sexual proclivities?
    San Diego Border Patrol Encountering Record Number of Illegal Aliens With Prior Arrests for Sexual Offenses

    Jason PenaMarch 9, 2021
    The United States’ implementation of more lax immigration policies and weakened border security has attracted an increase of economic migrants to the Southwest border. Criminal aliens have also taken notice and are taking advantage of our vulnerable border.

    Last week, Border Patrol agents in the San Diego Sector encountered a 34-year-old Mexican national in the Otay Mountain Wilderness, nearly two miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border in California. The foreign national admitted to unlawfully entering the United States. Upon processing the detained alien, agents discovered he was convicted in October 2017 for lewdness with a child under age 16. A Nevada judge sentenced the man to four years in prison, and he was repatriated to Mexico after completing his sentence.

    The same week, agents arrested another illegal alien in East San Diego County. A background check revealed the detained foreign national had been convicted of sexual assault against a child in 2017.

    Continued at:

    1. Now if we can just sue sanctuary cities and their fellow travelers for any damages done while aiding and abetting foreign felons. Thousands of citizens would have standing.

  7. I am posting this for Anonymous the Stupid that says Biden wants a closed door policy but leaves the doors open.

    Arizona and Montana Take Legal Action Against Biden Admin ICE Arrest Regulations

    Arizona and Montana are taking legal action (pdf) to block new Biden administration immigration regulations, saying that these would cause negative consequences for the states.

    The new rules would limit the capability of ICE to detain some illegal immigrants unless they pose a threat to national security, entered through the border after Nov. 1, or committed aggravated felonies.

    The Biden administration says that the rules don’t impair arresting or deporting people, but the officers in the field would need to request permission from their superiors to arrest people outside of the aforementioned cases.

    “If asked about the poorest policy choice I’ve ever seen in government, this would be a strong contender,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement. “Blindly releasing thousands of people, including convicted criminals and those who may be spreading COVID-19 into our state, is both unconscionable and a violation of federal law. This must be stopped now to avoid a dangerous humanitarian crisis for the immigrants and the people of Arizona.”

    Continued at:

    1. Video started at the end. Here it is from the beginning. Others are smart enough to figure it out but not Anonymous the Stupid.

  8. GCC, Georgia Gwinette College is a public school and must provide the rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities provided by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    The freedoms, rights, privileges and immunities in the Constitution are not qualified by the Constitution and are, therefore, absolute, and may not be qualified, “interpreted” or modified by the judicial branch.

    Of course, the Supreme Court and most of the judicial branch should have been impeached and convicted long ago for their failure to immediately strike down all violations of 1st Amendment freedoms, including that of speech, Article 1, Section 8, the 5th Amendment right to private property, the un-infringed 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms, the right to peaceable assembly, the right of the people to exercise and wield the power reserved to the people, or to the States, by the 10th Amendment*, etc.

    Article 1, Section 8, provides Congress the power to tax ONLY for “…general Welfare…,” omitting and, thereby, excluding any power to tax for individual or specific welfare, redistribution of wealth or charity. The same article provides Congress the power to regulate ONLY money, the “flow” of commerce and land and naval Forces. Additionally, the 5th Amendment right to private property is not qualified by the Constitution and is, therefore, absolute, allowing Congress no power to claim or exercise dominion over private property, the sole exception being the full taking of property under the principle of eminent domain.

    Government exists to provide maximal freedom to individuals while it is severely limited and restricted to merely facilitating that maximal freedom of individuals through the provision of security and infrastructure.

    The entire communistic American welfare state is unconstitutional, including but not limited to, affirmative action, quotas, welfare, food stamps, rent control, social services, forced busing, minimum wage, utility subsidies, WIC, TANF, SNAP, HAMP, HARP, TARP, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Labor, Energy, Obamacare, Social Security, Social Security Disability, Social Security Supplemental Income, Medicare, Medicaid, “Fair Housing” laws, “Non-Discrimination” laws, etc.

    America suffers under the dominion of the Communist Manifesto – Unconstitutional Central Planning (QE/money printing, compulsory conversion petrol-to-electric cars/energy), Control of the Means of Production (i.e. regulation), Redistribution of Wealth and Social Engineering (violations of the right to private property).

    Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto 59 years after the adoption of the Constitution because none of the principles of the Communist Manifesto were in the Constitution. Had the principles of the Communist Manifesto been in the Constitution, Karl Marx would have had no reason to write the Communist Manifesto. The principles of the Communist Manifesto were not in the Constitution then and the principles of the Communist Manifesto are not in the Constitution now.

    * 10th Amendment

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

  9. Every now and then a shot comes across the bow and this is such. How many times have we seen an institution pull this exact stunt and then claim later it is moot. It is an old trick. No more. More importantly, this is a much bigger win than may seem apparent. This is symbolic win, but what happens when someone goes for much bigger stakes? Now mootness is not so easily used to dismiss a claim of speech harm. This is a huge win and those that would rather muffle a voice than deal with it may have to think it through. This is great win to warn those that would censor no matter how small the voice or the harm.

  10. Article III’s standard for “legal standing” (case or controversy) is extremely vague and broad, it doesn’t mention $1.00 or any financial requirement. It’s very subjective and largely up to the judge’s discretion.

    As I understand from most constitutional attorneys, the primary distinction on “legal standing” is it can’t affect 100% of the population. A plaintiff must suffer harm or injury that 100% of the rest of the population doesn’t suffer.

    For example: if the local government seized your property in order to build a private shopping mall, you (property owner) is harmed but your neighbor wasn’t harmed. In that circumstance, that is valid legal standing in court.

  11. Some state affiliates of the ACLU have successfully obtained Article III legal standing by using “First Amendment injury”. The top duty of the courts and US Supreme Court is to draw the constitutional out-of-bounds for the other two political branches to follow (Judicial Review authority).

    Depending on your political persuasion, a conservative may benefit from “Second Amendment injury” in court or a Black Lives Matter protester may benefit from a “Fourteenth Amendment injury”.

    If “the supreme of the land” can’t be litigated, by legitimate plaintiffs harmed, we are no longer the United States!

  12. According to Roberts, all the college had to do was to put the cork back in the bottle and all will be forgiven. What will people do the next time if there is not punishment for the first time. He just lets them get away with a “My bad”. Leave the poor judge alone, he just wants to get along with everybody. I wonder if he was surprised when he saw that it was eight to one. More, importantly was his thinking changed? Unfortunately I think I know the answer to the question.

  13. It appears that the plaintiffs have a distinct disadvantage in 1st amendment cases, where the violation of the right does not easily translate to financial damages. This would appear to provide defendants cover for policies that infringe rights up to the point a plaintiff can prove quantifiable financial damages. I hear quite often that the 1st amendment is first for a reason. So why aren’t there minimum financial penalties for violating this right, written into law?

  14. I have been saying for a few weeks that California’s extreme mask mandates and lock down measures did not appear to be useful inasmuch as infection rates were soaring in California compared to other, more open states.

    Now a article in NATURE seems to have come to the same conclusion using sophisticated analysis. “Stay-at-home policy is a case of exception fallacy: an internet-based ecological study”

    Significant comment in the body of the report: “Peru has been considered to be the most strict lockdown country in the world30, nevertheless, by September 20th, it had the highest number of deaths/million.”


    “In conclusion, using this methodology and current data, in ~ 98% of the comparisons using 87 different regions of the world we found no evidence that the number of deaths/million is reduced by staying at home.”

    Governor Newsom destroyed much of California’s economy for nothing. I guess he was just ‘following the science’ Democrat style.

    1. Doesn’t look like they made an effort to control for the differing quality of medical care (access to ventilators, etc.) available to patients in different countries. Their data are already out of date. Peru does not have the highest deaths per capita. It’s done better than a dozen other countries, including the US. They say “Our study was not designed to explain why the stay-at-home measures do not contain the spread of the virus SARS-CoV-2. However, possible explanations that need further analysis may involve genetic factors, the increment of viral load, and transmission in households and in close quarters where ventilation is reduced,” but they don’t seem to consider variations in what staying at home means in different places (what % of the population is considered a critical worker exempt from staying at home, differences in the activities permitted during stay-at-home in different places, etc.), differences in access to PPE, and so forth. They admit “our effective sample size in all studies is only 25 epidemiological weeks, which is a very small sample size for a time series regression.”

      1. They recognized that no study can address all of the variables. One has to decide whether to go with theories [which change often] or what one can actually see on the ground.

        During a rigid lock down Peru had soaring infections. During a rigid lock down California rocketed higher than more open states in daily infections. It almost looked as if rigid lock downs were counterproductive.

        Neither of those examples appeared to justify destroying the economy. The ruins in California likely will outlast Newsom who, in any event, doesn’t appear long for the governor’s office. There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for recalling him and his ‘science’.

        1. LMAO that you think CA ever had a “rigid lock down.”

          Take a look at the huge number of people included in permitted work in CA –

          I don’t know what Peru’s stay-at-home involved, and I doubt you do either. If I’m wrong about that, tell us how the permitted workforce compares to CA’s permitted workforce. Have you ever been to Peru? I have. Over 1/4 of the total workforce works in agriculture. Were they excepted like they were in CA?

          1. I happened to be in the original Farmer’s Market in LA in late November, one of my favorite places. Besides Du-Par’s Restaurant there are many small shops selling produce and others selling prepared food. The nice little place that sells Philly Cheese Steaks was boarded and I don’t know whether it will ever come back. Other favorites were closed. I did order at a couple of other places and I noticed that the seats to stools had been removed, tables and chairs gone, and no place to actually sit and eat the food. Far fewer people than usual in the market. At one favorite place I spoke with the couple who were operating the business and they were very worried that even tighter restrictions were about to be imposed. I felt bad for them and said, “Good luck with your business,” as I left. They both said, somberly, “Thank you.” The lady seemed about to cry. They aren’t alone. Walking on Beverly and Rodeo Drive I could see that a number of places had closed. The windows were discreetly covered so it was less noticeable if you drove down the street. The next day even tighter restrictions were imposed and I suspect more businesses on the edge went over it. But everything is okay because Newsom can party at the pricey French Laundry Restaurant with many friends, none of whom were wearing masks. I flew to another state that was taking cautions but hadn’t become totalitarian. I began watching the Worldmeter reports on Covid infections in the US and was shocked to see California suddenly soar ahead of everyone else. Obviously Progressive totalitarian measures weren’t very effective with Covid. Maybe the ladies on The View can tell it to go away. That should work.

            I have been to these places and seen the harm done by petty tyrants. Originally I thought that at least they are slowing the virus, but it turns out that they weren’t even doing that. They were just destroying businesses and lives.

            1. LA took the down time during the lockdown, to gin up new licensing hurdles, to try and shut down massage facilities that cater to male clientele. at the time, they were not supposed to be open anyhow. now it is being enforced.

              of course the women’s “spas” will find compliance easily, no worries for them, indeed, you can bet they are one of the factions behind the legislation


              as ever, the excuse is the phantom of “human trafficking,” which though it surely exists around the world, does not really exist where they say it does

              I observe that the bust of Richard Kraft and the venue he visited, was under the excuse of human trafficking, and not a single charge of human trafficking was even filed. did the prosecutor apologize for his lies at his initial press conference? of course not. they never do!


            2. Young, I feel your pain and the pain of tens of millions whose lives will never be the same because of the petty dictators that destroyed their businesses and cost them their jobs. I don’t think we should forget the children who probably have been deeply scarred by those monsters.

              No state has come out of this without harm but one of the states that did the best was Florida where the governor deSantis followed what the science was telling him. It appears Florida never closed down like NY or CA and one can see the difference. Unfortunately the same dictators are in Washington and they continue to try to destroy America so they can make it into a third world nation.

              Get out of California while you can.

Comments are closed.