DeSantis Prevails in Free Speech Lawsuits Filed by Florida Pro-Palestinian Student Organizations
A federal judge in Florida has dismissed two free speech lawsuits brought by pro-Palestine university student groups against Governor Ron DeSantis and his administration.
The lawsuits were filed in response to a memo ordering universities to deactivate the student groups after the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.
US District Judge Mark Walker denied the students’ request for a preliminary injunction, stating that the memo has not been enforced and there’s no imminent deactivation or criminal investigation.
The memo’s relevance was called into question, he said, as it misrepresented the pro-Palestine student organizations’ affiliation with the National Students for Justice in Palestine. Walker also did not discover any indication of tainted speech or damage to one’s reputation.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called on the chancellor to remove the memo from the official website if it won’t be enforced, vowing to defend First Amendment rights if enforcement is attempted.
DeSantis Secures Victory Amid Free Speech Tensions
Interim Executive Director Howard Simon of the ACLU of Florida echoed the sentiment, urging the withdrawal of the deactivation order as it violates free speech rights.
The ruling marks a win for DeSantis amid heightened tensions on college campuses over free speech. While acknowledging concerns about potential targeting by the governor, Walker emphasized the need for evidence of harm for standing in First Amendment challenges.
The judge rejected the argument that fear of hypothetical harm should grant standing, underscoring the boundaries set by case law. Despite anxiety among plaintiff members due to disparaging remarks by the governor, Walker emphasized the need for evidence of actual harm to establish standing.
The dismissal of the lawsuits underscores the complexities of balancing free speech and security on college campuses, highlighting the importance of evidence in legal challenges. As the debate continues, the ruling sets a precedent for future cases involving free speech rights in educational institutions.