Judge Rules Against Student Group in Free Speech Clash with DeSantis!


Cybersecdn Wednesday, a federal judge threw out two free speech lawsuits that pro-Palestine university student groups in Florida had filed against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and his administration. The lawsuits were brought after the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, when the governor’s office sent a memo telling universities to shut down the student groups.

Although the students asked for a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker turned it down, saying that the memo from the chancellor of the board of governors on November 9 had not been followed through and that “the record demonstrates that neither deactivation nor criminal investigation is imminent.”

Walker also said that the dean admitted that the memo “wrongly described” the pro-Palestine student groups as being connected to the National Students for Justice (SJP) in Palestine. Because of this, Walker said, “it is not clear whether the memorandum even continues to apply to Plaintiff.”

“This Court finds that nothing has been done to try to deactivate under the Chancellor’s memorandum.” “This Court has already found that the Defendants who have the legal power to directly regulate registered student organizations do not plan to shut down Plaintiff,” the judge wrote.

“Plaintiff has not shown any proof in the records that the University of South Florida has done anything because of what the chancellor said on November 9th.”

Walker also said there was no proof that the kids’ speech had been “chilled” or that their reputation had been hurt.

A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Brian Hauss, said in a statement that the chancellor should take down the letter from his website if he doesn’t plan to follow it.

Judge Rules Against Student Group in Free Speech Clash with DeSantis

Florida officials have been warned that if they try to follow the deactivation order, Hauss and his team will be back in court to protect our client’s First Amendment rights. “The Chancellor should take down the deactivation order from his official website to make it official that it will not be carried out.”

This was also said by Howard Simon, Interim Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. He wrote, “The Deactivation Order should be withdrawn—it should never have been issued—because it violates the free speech rights of university students and the important role that universities play in American life to vigorously debate all social issues free from censorship.”

This is a win for DeSantis. It also comes at a time when college campuses are very tense as schools try to find the best mix between free speech and keeping their students safe.

In both of his decisions, the judge said that the student chapters have a good reason to be worried about being targeted by the governor, even if they don’t risk being shut down (which is why, he said, they don’t have the right to a preliminary injunction).

Walker wrote that the members of the plaintiff groups were right to be worried because “the Governor—arguably the most powerful man in Florida—has repeatedly disparaged Plaintiff’s members as ‘terrorists’ who support ‘jihad’ and repeated the falsehood that their organization has been ‘deactivated.'” He was referring to DeSantis’s comments about the pro-Palestine student groups.

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“But the court doesn’t agree with the lawyer’s suggestion that it should decide that Plaintiff has standing even though there isn’t any other evidence, just because someone with a lot of power says things that make college students afraid of some possible harm in the future.” The plaintiff’s argument goes beyond what case law has said about the injury-in-fact bar for standing in First Amendment challenges before they are put into effect. “That’s the limit of what this Court can do,” he wrote.

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