Student journalists may have a new deadline for filing First Amendment appeals: graduation day.
According to a unanimous ruling last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, First Amendment lawsuits by student journalists at public universities become moot when the plaintiffs graduate.
The ruling came in an appeal by two former editors of The Kansas State Collegian, who claimed that their First Amendment rights were violated in 2004 when the university removed their longtime adviser Ron Johnson from the newspaper.
The appeals court ruled that “because defendants can no longer impinge upon plaintiffs’ exercise of freedom of the press, plaintiffs’ claims for declaratory and injunctive relief are moot.” The court went on to say that “there is no reasonable expectation that [the former editors] will be subjected, post-graduation, to censorship by defendants.”
Many in the college media community were disturbed by the court's decision.
Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, issued this statement about the ruling: “The court created a standard for mootness that makes it impossible for virtually any student to make a First Amendment claim because they will graduate before their case is concluded. It’s just plain wrong.”
You can read more about the case at
Editor and Publisher
Inside Higher Ed
Student Press Law Center
Chronicle of Higher Education