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. I agree that nominal damages shouldn’t dismiss, but Roberts has a point. If the “case and controversy” is purely about whether the plaintiff’s rights were violated, by law, then the decision should ONLY be based on the law. If there’s any material fact that is in dispute, the case can be dismissed. Or let the plaintiff claim real quantifiable damages. The danger of dismissal is the defendant may “offer” to pay for the plaintiff to disappear, so it can continue abusing rights. When it’s only the law, or its interpretation when applied to undisputed facts, it doesn’t need to take long. Roberts exaggerates the problem.

    1. About time we had a court that ruled by Constitution and not by the whims of the fascist left.

    1. This user as been found hanging from a door nob, with 2 bullet wounds to the back of the head, ruled as suicide.

  2. “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.”
    ************************
    Don’t know why this Robert’s statement infuriates me so much but on the dangerousness issue the judicial branch is the most dangerous in terms of social engineering. Abortion, gay marriage and now enabling transgenderism have put courts in opposition to manifest popular will based on their interpretation of the Constitution and their eternal obsession with busybodism. So they work on things they want and the other little people with their little issues can take the back seat eh?

    1. “Abortion, gay marriage and now enabling transgenderism have put courts in opposition to manifest popular will”

      Most Americans believe that abortion should be legal.
      Most Americans support same-sex marriage.
      Most Americans support transgender rights.

      In what way are you claiming that the courts are “in opposition to manifest popular will”?

      1. I don’t know where you get your numbers from HOSS, but MOST Americans DO NOT SUPPORT ANY OF THOSE THINGS!! Stop watching CNN.

        1. I don’t watch TV much, and I’m as likely to watch a clip from Fox as from CNN.

          abortion –
          https://www.npr.org/2019/06/07/730183531/poll-majority-want-to-keep-abortion-legal-but-they-also-want-restrictions
          same sex marriage –
          https://news.gallup.com/poll/311672/support-sex-marriage-matches-record-high.aspx
          transgender rights –
          prri.org/research/americas-growing-support-for-transgender-rights/

          What polls are you relying on to dispute it?

          1. You should know better than that, they don’t care to learn about facts. They won’t look it up, and they just don’t care.

          2. Anon:

            “I don’t watch TV much, and I’m as likely to watch a clip from Fox as from CNN.

            abortion –
            https://www.npr.org/2019/06/07/730183531/poll-majority-want-to-keep-abortion-legal-but-they-also-want-restrictions
            same sex marriage –
            https://news.gallup.com/poll/311672/support-sex-marriage-matches-record-high.aspx
            transgender rights –
            prri.org/research/americas-growing-support-for-transgender-rights/

            What polls are you relying on to dispute it?”
            *******************************************************

            Maybe you should. I’d be relying on your own polls and a little history lesson:

            abortion –
            npr.org/2019/06/07/730183531/poll-majority-want-to-keep-abortion-legal-but-they-also-want-restrictions
            same sex marriage –

            From Your Article: “In all, 61% said they were in favor of a combination of limitations that included allowing abortion in just the first three months of a pregnancy (23%); only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman (29%); or only to save the life of the woman (9%).”

            That ain’t Roe.

            news.gallup.com/poll/311672/support-sex-marriage-matches-record-high.aspx

            It was Obama who first expressed his support of the Defense of Marriage Act while campaigning in 2008. The gay lobby of course got him to change course but DOMA was the law of the land and generally supported until about 2011, By then the Court had forced strict scrutiny of Sec 3 of DOMA effectively ending its enforcement so, of course, the public followed suit.

            prri.org/research/americas-growing-support-for-transgender-rights/

            Even you don’t pretend this sad enabling of mentally ill people enjoys widespread support.

            .

            1. mespo727272

              I found the above comment in moderation, due to extra links above two. I dereferenced several of the extra hyperlinks so that it would post.

            2. “Maybe you should.”

              Maybe you should pay closer attention to what I actually claimed.

              “That ain’t Roe.”

              I didn’t claim that a majority support Roe. Roe isn’t even current law.

              “It was Obama …”

              That’s irrelevant to my claim that “Most Americans support same-sex marriage”

              “Even you don’t pretend …”

              You shouldn’t pretend to read my mind.

    2. The judicial branch, including the Supreme Court, is provided, by the Constitution the power to judge, to weigh the evidence, to test premises, and to assure that actions comport with law.

      The judicial branch, including the Supreme Court, is DENIED and NOT provided, by the Constitution, any power to “interpret” legislation, legislate or, otherwise, modify legislation.

      The rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities provided by the Constitution and Bill of Rights are not qualified by those documents and are, therefore, absolute.

      The singular American failure has been and is the Supreme Court which should have been impeached and convicted for its persistent, perennial failure to support the “manifest tenor” of the Constitution as

      early as the “Reign of Terror” of “Crazy Abe” Lincoln, when secession was fully constitutional, Habeas Corpus was illegally suspended in the absence of invasion or rebellion, private property was illegally

      confiscated through the issuance of an unconstitutional proclamation, an illegal war against a sovereign foreign nation was prosecuted, and the 1864 election was tampered with, corrupted, fixed and rigged

      (most Americans did not want war for abolition).
      _____________________________________

      Article III, Section 1.

      “The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”
      _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

      Merriam-Webster

      judge verb

      Definition of judge

      transitive verb

      1 : to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises

      4 : to sit in judgment on : to try or to judge a case
      _______________________________________

      “…courts…must…declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void.”

      “…men…do…what their powers do not authorize, [and] what they forbid.”

      “[A] limited Constitution … can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing … To deny this would be to affirm … that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

      – Alexander Hamilton

  3. Uzuegbunam would’ve done better in a church setting. Curious to know how loud he got and what was being said. My favorite moment at a large state university was walking out of the student union onto this large sidewalk heading out to the peripheries of the campus and seeing the chalk writings laid down by the born again crew. Something along the lines of ‘Jesus died for our sins’. My take has always leaned more toward Jesus dying by our sins rather than for them as the former is more of a human misinterpretation of a much bigger picture. No taking away from Jesus as an enlightened being, just rather that he was an enlightened being often wildly misunderstood by those who claim to follow him…

    Anyway, those chalk writings: ‘Jesus died for our sins’ was followed by second party post script that said ‘but we killed him’. Forgive them for they know not what they do played out real time. Quite the awesome dilemma. I mean, for someone like me whose family left the Catholic church during prohibition because they found out my grandfather was involved in running rum because the phone company who he was laying phone lines underwater island to island for were basically working for the mob as well because they knew where all the IRS boats were on any given day, well the church found out and came to the front door and demanded money. My grandmother, who’d grown up in a brothel and had seen enough madness for the whole block was having none of the church fundraising efforts — she took her kids out and went to another church. Probably saved them from going out to be sexually abused everyday and then meeting at the dinner table to not talk about it.

    So I suppose these family experiences made me wary of proselytizing a wee bit. Use the faith you’ve gained from your religion in your own life, let those principles guide you, don’t slam other people about the head and shoulders with your personal beliefs and STFU.

    Elvis Bug

    1. Elvis. That’s a whole lot of proselytizing for someone who claims not to like proselytizing.

      Here’s a simple concept. “Resist not evil”, and just ignore them.

        1. Seeing as you replied, apparently you do nothing of the sort.

          I can easily imagine you writing your simplistic inane self-important ramblings on sidewalks.

          1. Glad to see I provide your imagination a break from your incoherent fever dreams, Wally.

            EB

    2. Wow, what a dysfunctional, antisocial family history and ancestry. That fully explains why your philosophical musings about religion are so shallow.

    3. Elvis, so your grandmother grew up in a brothel and she took her kids out of the Catholic Church. How old was your grandmother when she graduated from the brothel. So at some time she must have “seen the light and become a Catholic. Because she became disenchanted with the Catholic Church did she go as far as to become an atheist. Please give us more detail. The church tells us of the depravity of man but does not say that if a man is in the church he becomes immune to the temptations of life. Only in the church of your mind are their categories for the unforgivable.

    4. Elvis Bug. Concerning your 10.25 post. So your grandmother left the Catholic Church but she went to another church. Your grandmother must have thought it out and decided that she no longer would go to that church but to another church because her religion was important to her. You let us know that you have little respect for her thinking. You say that the religious should not pound you on the head. One of the principles of presenting the gospel is to offer it and if it is rejected to shake the dust from your feet and move on. Compare this approach to transgender males insisting on competing on female high school track teams when you consider those who are slamming others about the head and shoulders. Compare it also to, if your white and you don’t admit that you are a racist you will be cancelled. You will not only at times risk being beaten about the head and shoulders but you will loss the ability to feed, cloth, and shelter your family when you lose your job. Some dogmas are not without failures but others are without charity.

      1. Do us all a favor, TIT, and don’t think it through. You’re awful at it, perversely entertaining though it may be to see where your major mental malfunction takes you.

        EB

    5. So basically you are saying that your misguided butthurt is 100% personal rather than relative, and on top of that generational exclusively within the culture of your own family unit? This helps your point how, exactly? Particularly in a legal context? That describes someone that needs a therapist, not a lawyer, and certainly not a congress to intervene in their life. You have successfully summarized precisely what is wrong with the majority of the Democratic party in 2021. Good job.

      1. I had the impression he wasn’t sober when he posted it. (And, I’d wager, largely fictional).

        Where I used to work, the chalk artists were all promoters of one or another sort of sexual deviance. I never thought to contemplate it.

        1. My grandmother left with my grandfather at 14. Not an uncommon practice during those days. Just like going personal right out of the gate when faced with frowned upon, but accurate, content is a common practice on this blog.

          EB

        2. Arty, a) it is one hundred percent truey, and b) I’ve been sober for 37 years, 38 if i get to April 6th. I’m guessing your period of sobriety is much closer to single digit hours, no?

          EB

        3. Sounds like you not only contemplated it, but you actually fantasized about it. As usual, your posts are a fascinating venture into deviance, Arty.

          EB

      2. It’s awesome when I see someone prove, within their own post, the old maxim that when one finger points outward, at least three point directly back on themselves. You’re awesome, James.

        EB

  4. John Robert’s is another reminder of GW Bush, a so-called conservative. Harriet Meyers might have been a better choice.

    1. Roberts was initially nominated to replace Sandra Day Five-part-balancing-test O’Connor. When the Chief Justice died, Bush amended the nomination to be one to replace Rehnquist. Miers was floated to replace O’Connor. Samuel Alito was nominated when Miers bombed.

    1. Agree.

      How do we account for Justice Roberts opinions? There seems to be an inconsistency when he rules.

  5. Chief Justice Roberts is going to known as the worst Chief Justice of the Supreme Court but he is part of the Washington sewer, Elites, Woke crowds. Glad event the liberal justices joined in with the conservatives less one Woke Chief Justice.

  6. Roberts, IMO, will go down in history as maybe the worst supreme court justice of all time.

    1. On the other hand….Justice Thomas shall be known as amongst the best Justices in the history of the Court.

      1. If Thomas was a liberal he would be lionized, idolized and made into an icon of judicial behavior and reasoning. But since he is a conservative the media tries to turn him into an “Uncle Tom”. Justice Thomas has become one of the most underrated justices in our lifetime.

        1. If Thomas were a liberal, he wouldn’t rule the way he does, and conservatives would hate him as much as they hate the liberal justices.

          1. Anonymous the Stupid read what you are saying. Then think. Your statement might make a lot of people think that you aren’t very bright.

  7. “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.”
    **********************************
    Oh and on Roberts’ self-interested dissent: Raise your hand if you think making a governmental instrumentality do it’s job. work a full day for a full day’s wages and generally be of benefit to the society that props it up is asking too much of courts who generally have lots of sway in deciding what cases, if any, they decide to rule on?

    Roberts is a privileged, prep-school prig.

    1. “Roberts is a privileged, prep-school prig.”

      So is Kavanaugh.

      Thomas, Sotomayor, Gorsuch, and Barrett also went to private high schools.

        1. Whether he is or isn’t is a matter of opinion. I couldn’t care less whether you agree.

          It’s easy enough to find other people who think he’s a prig and explain why –
          https://twitter.com/mrspanstreppon/status/1284931442544455681
          https://chicago.suntimes.com/2018/9/21/18394275/supreme-court-appointment-requires-high-standards
          I agree with them.

          I’m sure it’s easy to find people who think he isn’t one. Such is the nature of opinions, people often disagree.

          1. It’s easy enough to find other people who think he’s a prig and explain why

            What, you fancy an outburst by a supposedly adult woman who speaks and thinks like an adolescent is probative? Or of the slightest interest?

            1. What, you fancy I care about your questions?

              As I said: I couldn’t care less whether you agree.

      1. Anonymous the Stupid, going to a Catholic school that is provite doesn’t make one privileged .

        1. The term ‘privileged’ is often misused. Roberts’ father was an engineer. It’s doubtful he had much pull. Kavanaugh’s father was the staff director of a trade association. Being well-connected was his job. His mother was a judge. So the building blocs of privilege were there. The thing is, though, I tend to doubt his parents had the connections to assist with his specific career trajectory. In BigLaw and politics, ‘building relationships’ is what matters. Other professions are much less connections-driven. The thing is, they’re his connections. I’m not seeing where his mother and father opened doors for him.

          As for the ‘prig’ charge, I guess those are the new talking points. The previous set had it that he was an alcohol-steeped party boy.

  8. Why am I not surprised the Chief Justice would think as he does in direct opposition to every other Justice on his Bench?

    If ever there was a clear cut indication of the length to which the Chief Justice will go to show his lack of adherence to the Law and Constitution this is one of the many.

    His twisted and labored turning of fact and ignorance of the Obama Administration’s ACA (Obamacare Care) predication Decision that gave us that disaster of Legislation was the first that showed his true colors.

    Bush put a Ringer on the Court with that Nomination.

    1. There’s been speculation that Roberts is being blackmailed. No clue about that. There is something wrong with the man and it’s grown increasingly apparent over the last half-dozen years or so. If there’s a governing principle to his conduct, it’s not evident what it is.

      1. “There is something wrong with the man [Roberts] and it’s grown increasingly apparent over the last half-dozen years or so.”
        ****
        So it seems. There has been speculation about blackmail. His odd decision on Obamacare after Obama all but threatened the Court stirred some suspicions but the recent revelations that our ‘security organs’ [Soviet- speak seems appropriate] have been spying on elected members of government [who seem less relevant these days] makes it clear that the means and motives for blackmail appear to be in place. I suppose we have to rely on the honesty and patriotism of the security organs not to actually engage in blackmail.

      2. Roberts seems to “fall” a lot and hit his head after having some sort of siezure or “something” and they want us all to believe NONE of this has to do with his brain? Or that it has an effect on his brain? Come on now. Of course it does! Remove him from the Court. Enough.

        https://www.foxnews.com/story/chief-justice-john-roberts-hospitalized-after-fall

        “MaineCoastNow.com reported that St. George Ambulance responded to a call of a man who had fallen 5 to 10 feet and landed on a dock, hitting the back of his head. The patient was ashen and was foaming at the mouth. The patient had reportedly suffered a grand mal seizure.”

        1. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/chief-justice-roberts-injured-head-in-fall-last-month-was-hospitalized

          “U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts spent a night in a hospital last month after injuring his forehead in a fall near his home, Fox News has confirmed.

          After the injury, Roberts’s head was covered in blood, a source told The Washington Post, which first broke the story.

          Roberts fell while taking a walk at a Maryland country club, the report said.

          The chief justice, 65, has a history of seizures, having suffered such health events in 1993 and 2007, but doctors determined that last month’s fall did not result from a seizure, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg told the Post.”

        2. I wouldn’t want Roberts removed from from the Court now even if he became as goofy as Biden.

          Roberts is reliably unreliable.

          His replacement would be a Jacobin.

          1. Yes yes, my mistake….meant remove and replace him when the the time is “right”….not wrong…as it certainly would be now….

  9. Once more with feeling, Until you make individual officials personally liable, you’re going to continue to receive try-every-door non-compliance from higher education. They fancy laws are for little people. See to it that some apparatchik loses his house, and then this stops.

    Another question at hand is why higher education generates so many no-brainer cases like this. In answering that, you’ll have to gain some insight into the culture of these institutions and to the souls of the men and women who work in them.

  10. I cannot pronounce the plaintiffs last name. Or the defendant’s.

  11. Just read the article about this decision. Glad you picked up on it. Maybe a little humiliation of these colleges will get them to change.

    1. Great victory.

      But.

      Unless the consequences of violating a person’s rights are significant enough and extend to the person in charge, the abuses will continue.

      To a Lefty, being branded a censor is a mark of virtue.

      Only if it costs personal money will the censorship end

      1. Monument, asking for just $1.00 is stating that it was not about the money but the principal. In it’s finding the court sent a shot across the bow of an institution trying to take away someones freedom of speech. In so doing they sent a warning that continued prohibitive actions may be dealt with in a more costly manner. Free speech in a free speech zone for some but not so free for others. Continued diligence will be required.

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