Student Speech

Sorenson's Ranch School v. MySpace

Date: 

07/31/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Sorenson's Ranch School; Shane Sorenson; Jill Sorenson

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

MySpace, Inc.; John Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Individual
School

Type of Party: 

Individual
Intermediary

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Utah

Case Number: 

2:06CV00632

Legal Counsel: 

None

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Withdrawn

Description: 

Sorenson's Ranch School, a rehabilitation center and school for troubled youths in Koosharem, Utah, along with two of its officers filed a defamation lawsuit against MySpace and 10 unknown John Doe defendants claiming that a MySpace page had been set up in which users criticized the school's operations (the page no longer exists).

In the suit, the school alleged that MySpace and some anonymous users published statements falsely indicating that the Sorensons engaged in child abuse, employed underqualified staff, and engaged in false advertising. The plaintiffs also claimed that the defendants used "vulgar and inappropriate language" and otherwise made defamatory statements regarding the school.

The complaint asked for $125,000 in damages and an injunction against further publication of the defamatory comments.

There is no indication in the case docket that plaintiffs served MySpace with the complaint, and no defendant filed an answer. About four months after filing the complaint, with no further filings or motions occuring in the case, the plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Subject Area: 

Weedsport Central School District v. Wisniewski

Date: 

04/26/2001

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Aaron Wisniewski

Type of Party: 

School

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of New York

Case Number: 

5:02-cv-01403-NAM-DEP

Legal Counsel: 

Dennis G. O'Hara, Stephen Ciotoli

Publication Medium: 

Other

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Description: 

Aaron Wisniewski, an eighth grader, sent instant messages to several of his friends using his home computer. The instant messages contained a "buddy icon" that Aaron had designed, which was a picture of a pistol firing at a man's head with the words "Kill Mr. VanderMolen." Philip VanderMolen was one of Aaron's teachers at his school.

Upon learning about the buddy icon, school officials initially supsended Aaron for 5 days, but the punishment was extended to a full semester after a Superintendent's hearing took place. The school also barred Aaron from participating in extracurricular activities during this time period.

Aaron and his parents sued the school district and superintendent in federal court in New York, alleging that the suspension violated his First Amendment rights. The district court granted the school district's motion for summary judgment, ruling that the icon constituted a true threat, which is not protected by the First Amendment. On appeal, the 2nd Circuit affirmed.

 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

 

 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Doninger v. Niehoff

Date: 

07/16/2007

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Karissa Niehoff; Paula Schwartz

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Avery Doninger; Lauren Doninger, on behalf of minor Avery Doninger

Type of Party: 

Individual
School

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

Connecticut Superior Court, New Britain; U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut; U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit

Case Number: 

3:07CV1129(MRK); 07-3885-cv (2nd Circuit)

Legal Counsel: 

Jon L. Schoenhorn

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Administrators barred a Connecticut high school student from running in a student election after the student critized admininstrators online for their handling of a student festival. In the spring of 2007, Jamfest, a yearly music festival at a Connecticut high school, experienced a series of planning setbacks that threatened to postpone or cancel the event. When Avery Doninger – a junior and incumbent class secretary – was unable to meet with the school's principal, Karissa Niehoff, to talk about the event she and three other students sent a mass e-mail asking members of the community to speak to administrators about putting the event back on schedule. Doninger and Niehoff later had a discussion in the hallway, during which she says Niehoff informed her that the event had been cancelled.

That night, Doninger wrote a Livejournal blog post criticizing the school officials' handling of the issue. In the post, she called the school officials “douchebags” and asked her fellow students and their parents to complain to school superintendent Schwartz in order “to piss [Schwartz] off more” than the mass e-mail had.

In response to her blog post, the school barred Doninger from running for reelection as Class Secretary for her senior year. At the class election, school officials prevented a group of students from wearing “Team Avery” t-shirts. According to school principal Niehoff, the t-shirt ban was intended to prevent electioneering by candidates and supporters who could afford such merchandise.

Avery's mother, Lauren Doninger, attempted to convince school officials to consider alternative forms of punishment. She also tried to establish whether or not the incident would appear in Avery's school record. When a resolution could not be reached on these issues, the Doningers filed suit in Connecticut state court against Niehoff and Schwartz. The defendants removed the case to the federal court in Connecticut.

The Doningers' complaint for injunctive relief alleged violations of Connecticut free speech laws, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of Avery's constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection under the Civil Rights Act (Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 1988). The complaint sought to enjoin the defendants on seven different counts. All told, the complaint would prevent defendants from installing anyone as Class Secretary until an election was held with Avery on the ballot; from maintaining negative remarks related to this incident in Avery's school record; from punishing students for wearing t-shirts bearing slogans related to the incident; from preventing Avery from addressing her class in assemblies; and from punishing or intimidating Avery, her mother, or any students who subsequently might vote for Avery in the new election.

The district court found that Avery met the initial “irreparable harm” standard required for a preliminary injunction through her showing that her speech may have been chilled because she voluntarily chose not to wear a "Team Avery" t-shirt at school, limited her e-mail and blog communications to prevent a similar incident, and restricted her Livejournal account to “private.”

However, the court denied the Doningers' motion, finding that she had not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits as to her constitutional claims. In addressing the Doningers' claims, the court divided its discussion into First Amendment and Equal Protection issues.

The court determined that Avery's blog post constituted on-campus speech for First Amendment purposes, regardless of the fact that she wrote it off campus, because "the blog was related to school issues, and it was reasonably foreseeable that other LMHS students would view the blog and that school administrators would become aware of it." Slip op. at 28. The court then noted that school administrators have the right, in certain situations, to restrict on-campus speech to promote school-related goals. The court also ruled that Avery does not have a First Amendment right to run for voluntary office.

Considering these two concepts together, the court determined that the defendants may have had the right to prevent Avery from running for office as punishment for her statements in order to promote civility in school functions, thus making an injunction inappropriate. The court had more serious misgivings about the denial of the right to wear “Team Avery” t-shirts, which it related to the black armbands in the famous Tinker school speech case. However, it decided to reserve that issue until the parties have had a chance to develop the record as the case goes forward.

The court denied the injunction as to the Doningers' Equal Protection claims because Avery's blog post made her situation unique compared to the other students involved.

Update:

5/29/2008 - The U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision using similar reasoning.

11/12/2008 - The district court heard argument on the defense's motion for summary judgment.

1/15/2009 - The district court grants the defendants' motion for summary judgment in part and denies the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment.

1/23/2009 - District court trial set to begin June 4, 2009.

3/19/2009 - District court denies both the plaintiff's and the defendants' motions to reconsider the rulings on their summary judgment motions.

4/7/2009 - Defendants appeal the district court's ruling on its summary judgment motion to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

4/16/2009 - Plaintiff appeals the district court's ruling on its summary judgment motion to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

5/14/2009 - The district court grants the plaintiff's motion requesting that the district court certify as final judgment its ruling on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Defendants file motion for stay of trial to allow time for their appeal to the Second Circuit.

4/25/2011 - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decides in favor of the principal and superintendent on the issue of qualified immunity, affirming those portions of the district court's summary judgment ruling that were in favor of the principal and superintendent and reversing the remainder.

07/21/2011 - Avery filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States.

10/31/2011 - The Supreme Court denied Avery's Petition for Certiorari.

 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

6/17/09 -CMF updated

2/7/2011 - fixed inverted lawyer-party pairings (AAB)

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Trosch v. Layshock

Date: 

04/01/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Justin Layshock; Thomas Cooper; Brendan Gebhart; Christopher Gebhart

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Court of Common Pleas, Mercer County, Pennsylvania

Legal Counsel: 

Michael L. Magulick (Cooper); Gina M. Zumpella (Gebharts)

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In December 2005, Justin Layshock and three other high school students created fake MySpace profiles for their principal, Eric Trosch. The profiles included an official school portrait of Trosch and answers to the website's template questions for creating a profile. Many of the answers were derogatory and sexually explicit. One profile indicated that Trosch's favorite movie was a pornographic film. Another indicated that Trosch "liked to have sex with students and brutalize women." A third said that he "kept a keg of beer at his desk at school, was on steroids, and smoked marijuana."

After the school district disciplined Layshock, he brought a federal lawsuit claiming that the school's punishment violated his First Amendment rights. (Please see the CMLP database entry on the school's disciplinary action for more information).

At some point, the identies of the other three students came to light, and Trosch filed a defamation suit in Pennsylvania state court in April 2007.

Update:

12/01/2007 - Judge Christopher J. St. John denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the state case, but held that the statements were not made with actual malice and that the principal could not recover punitive damages.

11/2008 - Trosch dropped his claims against three of the defendants, leaving only Layshock in the case.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Updated 6/09/2008 (JMC) - Court records don't seem to available on-line. Sharon Herald reporter Joe Pinchot would likely know the status of this case.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

School Forced to Defend Removal of Student Posters Referencing Website Containing Links to Violent Videos

Last week a Massachusetts district court rejected a school district's effort to dismiss a novel student speech case, Bowler v. Town of Hudson, in which school administrators removed the Hudson High School Conservative Club's posters advertising its first meeting because the posters contained the website address for the club's national organization, which in turn contained a link to graphic videos on another site that depicted beheadings in Iraq.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Hudson High School v. Bowler

Date: 

05/17/2005

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Christopher Bowler; Hudson High School Conservative Club

Type of Party: 

Individual
School

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Case Number: 

1:05-cv-11007-PBS

Legal Counsel: 

Gregory A. Hession

Publication Medium: 

Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Settled (total)

Description: 

In the fall of 2004, two students at Hudson High School ("HHS") in Hudson, Massachusetts formed a Conservative Club in an effort to provide a forum for pro-conservative views on campus. The HHS Conservative Club was affiliated with a national organization, the High School Conservative Clubs of America, whose slogan is "Protecting American Freedom, Faith, and Morality." Among other things, the group endorses Second Amendment rights, the "restoration" of Christian values to schools and government, and the closing of the nation's borders to all immigrants; the group is opposed to gay marriage, affirmative action, and abortion.

When the HHS Conservative Club put up posters advertising its first organizational meeting, included on these posters was a link to the club's national organization's website. At the time this case arose, this website contained a banner entitled "Islam: A Religion of Peace?" Underneath the banner was a still shot from a video depicting a beheading (the still depicted the scene immediately before the actual beheading) as well as a link to five beheading videos. The links to these videos were accompanied by a warning that the videos were extremely graphic but that the group feels "it is necessary to provide them so you can see the true doctrines of Islam put into action."

Alerted to the HSCCA website by a faculty member, the HHS Technology Director reviewed it and decided to block access to it from all the school computers. When she told the assistant principal about the website, he ordered all of the group's posters removed. The school principal later permitted the group to put up posters as long as the HSCCA website was blacked out. The school officials contend that the graphic content available on the HSCCA website would disturb some of the students at the school, some of whom were under 12, and that the posters threatened to disrupt the operation of the school by requiring teachers to take time away from their lessons to discuss the videos with psychologically scarred students. The leaders of the HHS Conservative Group sued the school district as well as school administrators for violating their First Amendment rights; the defendants later moved for summary judgment to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims.

On October 4, 2007, the Massachusetts district court largely rejected the defendants' motion for summary judgment. In the first part of the court's opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Saris noted how far removed the posters were from actually presenting violent images:

To access the videos, a student would need (1) to view the posters and then, later, (2) access the website (and he could not do so at school because the website was blocked by the time the posters were removed), (3) discover the beheading videos among the other content, (4) navigate past an express warning, and (5) affirmatively click a link to the videos. There is no allegation that plaintiffs were publicizing the graphic content of the website. Thus, students at HHS were not a "captive audience" for the videos; rather, the videos were only available to the students, outside of school, as a matter of conscious choice.

The court also noted that the Technology Director's decision to block the website was akin to censoring a book in the school's library and might also be a separate constitutional violation; however, the plaintiffs in this case had not made that argument.

The district court then went on to grant the individual school officials qualified immunity, explaining that "[t]he First Amendment jurisprudence governing a school's regulation of student access to violent speech on the internet with the benign intent to protect students from images which may be upsetting and psychologically damaging is not settled . . . ." The court confused the issue of whether blocking access to the HSCCA website on its computers would be constitutional-certainly an open issue-with the issue of whether it was constitutional to force the group to eliminate any reference to the website on its posters.

Update:

April 2008 - The parties settled the case and filed a stipulation of dismissal

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Oceanport School District v. Dwyer

Date: 

12/18/2003

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Oceanport School District; John Amato; James DiGiovanna; Mary Bulvanoski; Joseph Henderson; Mary Sharkey; Serafina Banich; Steven Briskey; Lucille Chaump; Rick Harrison; Robert Huber; Geralyn Hyland; Richard McKenna; William McVitty

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Ryan Dwyer

Type of Party: 

Individual
School

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

District of New Jersey

Case Number: 

3:03CV06005 (SRC)

Legal Counsel: 

Grayson Barber, Edward Barocas

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

For approximately a week in early April 2003, Ryan Dwyer, then an eighth grade student, maintained a website called "I Hate Maple Place" that included a forum. Dwyer, who hosted the site on his home computer, used the site to criticize his local school and some of the teachers. He also created a section on the site called "Guest Book" where other users could post comments.

Although Dwyer requested that posters refrain from posting threats or profanity, some fellow students posted inappropriate content. When school officials found out about the website they suspended Dwyer.

On December 18, 2003, Dwyer filed a lawsuit with the help of the ACLU against the school district, its administators, and others, claiming the school district had violated his First Amendment and Due Process rights.

On March 31, 2005 the court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Dwyer. The parties settled in November 2005, with the school district issuing an apology and paying $117,500 in damages and attorney's fees.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

TO DO: Get defendants' answer

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Draker v. Schreiber

Date: 

09/01/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Anna Draker

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Benjamin Schreiber; Lisa Schreiber; Ryan Todd; Lisa Todd; Steve Todd

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

38th Judicial District Court, Medina County, Texas; Court of Appeals of Texas, San Antonio

Case Number: 

06-08-17998-CV (trial); No. 04-07-00692-CV (appeal)

Legal Counsel: 

Regina Bacon Criswell - Law Office of Regina Bacon Criswell; Ron A. Sprague - Gendry & Sprague, P.C.

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Material Removed

Description: 

Benjamin Schreiber and Ryan Todd, two 16-year old Clark High School students, posted a false MySpace page about their assistant principal Anna Draker in March 2006. The page was online for approximately one month before Draker learned of it. She contacted MySpace, and the social networking site took the page down at her request.

Draker sued the students and their parents in Texas state court, alleging that the page contained defamatory text and pictures and falsely depicted Draker as a lesbian, which she is not. Draker alleged that the students' parents negligently failed to supervise their children's use of the internet.  Later, she amended her complaint to include a claim for intentional infliction of emotion distress.

The students moved for summary judgment, asserting that because the "exaggerated and derogatory statements" included on the MySpace website were not assertions of fact that could be objectively verified, they were not defamatory as a matter of law.  The court agreed and dismissed the defamation claim against the students.  The students and parents then filed a motion for summary judgment on the negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. The court also granted this motion and dismissed the remainder of Draker's claims. 

Draker appealed the dismissal of her intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.  The Texas appeals court affirmed the lower court's ruling on August 13, 2008, holding that Draker's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim failed because it was duplicative of her defamation claim.

One of the students was also charged criminally, as a juvenile, with retaliation and fraudulent use of identifying information. (For more information, please see the CMLP's database entry on the related Texas v. Schreiber criminal matter).

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

to-do: get other filings if possible

 

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Subject Area: 

Hermitage School District v. Layshock

Date: 

12/21/2005

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Hermitage School District

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Justin Layshock

Type of Party: 

School

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Number: 

2:06CV00116 (trial); 07-4465, 07-4555 (appeal)

Legal Counsel: 

Witold J. W Walczak - ACLU, Kim M. Watterson, Richard T. Ting - Reed & Smith

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

In December 2005, high school student Justin Layshock posted a fake MySpace page parodying his high school principal, Eric Trosch. Layshock posted a picture of Trosch and answered the questions asked by the site's profile template by riffing on the word "big" because Trosch is apparently a large man. Answers included phrases like "big faggot," "big hard ass," and "big dick." To the question, "what did you do on your last birthday," Layshock answered "too drunk to remember." Layshock created the profile from a computer at his grandmother's home.

School officials discovered the profile, and the school distict suspended Layshock for 10 days, ordered him to finish high school in an "Alternative Education Program," and forbid him from attending graduation. The school backtracked on part of this disciplinary action, however, and Layschock was allowed to return to regular classes. He graduated in Spring 2006.

Layshock and his parents sued the school district and various school officials in federal district court in Pennsylvania, claiming (1) that the school's punishment violated his First Amendment rights, (2) that the school's policies and rules were vague and/or overbroad in violation of the First Amendment; and (3) that the school's punishment violated Layshock's parents' Fourteenth Amendment rights to raise, nurture, discipline and educate him.

In July 2007, the district court granted summary judgment to Layshock on his claim that that the school's punishment violated his First Amendment rights and ordered a trial to determine whether he is entitled to compensatory damages for that violation. The court granted summary judgment to the defendants on all other counts.

Eric Trosch subsequently sued Layshock and three other students in Pennsylvania state court for defamation based on this and two other fake MySpace profiles. (Please see the related CMLP Database entry for more information).

Update:

11/13/2007 - Parties jointly moved for final judgment and to stipulate damages of $10,000 to the Layshocks contingent on appeal.

11/14/2007 - Judge entered the judgment.

11/21/2007 - Hermitage School District filed notification of its intent to appeal.

11/30/2007 - Layshocks filed notification of their intent to cross appeal.

3/27/2008 - Hermitage School District filed its appellate brief.

5/22/2008 - Layshocks filed their appellate brief.

12/10/2008 - Case was argued before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.   

02/04/2010 - The Third Circuit upheld the lower court's rulings.

04/09/2010 - The Third Circuit granted the Hermitage School District's petition for an en banc rehearing on whether it violated Layshock's First Amendment rights.

06/03/2010 - Case was argued en banc before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals

06/13/2011 - The Third Circuit affirmed the lower court's grant of summary judgment to Layshock on his First Amendment claim. The Third Circuit noted that the School District did not, on appeal, challenge the district court's finding that there was no evidence of a "substantial disruption of the school environment," and further held that accessing the school's website for the principal's photo was insufficient to forge a nexus between the Hermitage School District and the profile Layshock created. The Court also found that while Layshock's speech reached much of the student body, it did not reach within the "schoolhouse gate."

10/14/2011- The Hermitage School District petitioned for a Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States on Layshock' First Amendment claim. The School District filed a single petition with Blue Mountain School District.

01/17/2012 - The Supreme Court denied Hermitage School District's petition for a Writ of Certiorari.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Status updated on 6/4/2008, case has moved to appeal. (AAB)

Updated 2/12/09 - VAF  

Updated 2/1/11, case still open.  (AAB)

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Waters v. Miller

Date: 

05/24/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Lee Waters

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Douglas Miller

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Florida Circuit Court, Sarasota County

Case Number: 

2006CA002690SC

Legal Counsel: 

Douglas Grissinger

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

There is little information available about this case, but it appears that high school student Douglas Miller posted sexually demeaning statements alongside high school teacher Lee Waters's photograph on MySpace (it is not clear whether Miller also posted the photograph or just commented on Waters's profile). The school district suspended Miller, and Waters filed a lawsuit. We have not been able to determine the claims made in the lawsuit, but Waters may have been claiming defamation. A stipulation and order of dismissal were filed in January 2007, presumably after the parties reached a settlement.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

to-do: further research required; get court documents; revise description section

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

State of Colorado v. Mink

Date: 

12/13/2003

Threat Type: 

Criminal Investigation

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

State of Colorado

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Thomas Mink

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Colorado District Court, County of Weld

Legal Counsel: 

A. Bruce Jones, Marcy Glenn, Mark Silverstein (ACLU)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

While a student at the University of Northern Colorado, Thomas Mink created a website called the "Howling Pig," which dealt with issues of current interest at the University. Among other things, the website parodied the views of a professor at the University. The professor complained to the local police department, and they commenced an investigation of Mink for violation of Colorado's criminal libel statute.

Colorado law makes it "criminal libel" to knowingly publish any statement tending to "impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation or expose the natural defects of one who is alive, and thereby to expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule." Colo.Rev.Stat. Sec. 18-13-105.

In December 2003, the Colorado police obtained a search warrant, searched Mink's house, and seized his computer and written materials.

In January 2004, Mink sued various government officials in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, challenging the criminal libel statute as a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The district court granted Mink a temporary restraining order prohibiting his prosecution under the criminal libel statute and requiring the district attorney to return Mink's computer and all of its contents.

Later, the district court dismissed Mink's suit when the district attorney's office disavowed an intent to prosecute. Mink appealed, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the constitutional challenge on standing and mootness grounds.

Update:

9/10/2009 - Mink petitioned for a rehearing en banc (in front of the entire Tenth Circuit) which was denied.  The State then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.  The Supreme Court declined and sent the remaining claims back to the district court.  The district court dismissed the remaining claims.  Mink is now appealing to the Tenth Circuit.

7/19/2010 - Tenth Circuit reversed, holding that "Because a reasonable person would not take the statements in the editorial column as statements of facts by or about Professor Peake, no reasonable prosecutor could believe it was probable that publishing such statements constituted a crime warranting search and seizure of Mr. Mink's property." 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

U.S. Supreme Court Limits Student Speech Rights

The Supreme Court has once again cut away at student speech rights. In its recent decision Morse v. Frederick, the Court held that a high school did not violate the First Amendment when it suspended a student for displaying a 14-foot banner proclaiming "Bong Hits for Jesus" during an Olympic torch parade.

In Morse, the Court declares that public schools can censor speech relating to activities "illegal to minors." In addition, and perhaps most importantly, the Court holds it is appropriate to defer to school administrators' "reasonable" interpretations of what the speech at issue means. Chief Justice Roberts, joined by four other justices, concludes that although the banner's message was offensive to some and merely cryptic or amusing to others, it was reasonable for the principal to conclude that the statement "bong hits for Jesus" promoted illegal drug use.

Subject Area: 

Court Refuses to Enjoin School From Suspending Student Over YouTube Video

A federal district court judge in Seattle recently denied a student's motion for a preliminary injunction challenging his high school's decision to suspend him for posting on YouTube a video presenting his teacher in an unflattering light. This case raises a whole host of fascinating First Amendment issues concerning student free speech rights in the electronic age.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

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