The US Supreme Court refused a request by legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to review a free speech lawsuit against Arkansas State University (ASU) dismissed in 2019.
The ADF argued that further clarifications were needed after the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by an ASU student and the ADF, which is a chapter of the conservative group Turning Point USA.
Reviewing Immunity Standard for Officials
The case first started in 2017. ASU student, Ashlyn Hoggard, and a representative of Turning Point were told by an administrator that they could not have an information table in an area reserved for “tabling” by registered student organizations. A US court order dismissed the case in 2019, citing policy changes, but the ADF requested a review of the immunity standard for public officials.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in a three-page statement mentioned by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, said that he respected the court’s decision but also had questions regarding the standard of immunity.
“Why should university officers, who have time to make calculated choices about enacting or enforcing unconstitutional policies, receive the same protection as a police officer who makes a split-second decision to use force in a dangerous setting?” he asked.
“As Justice Thomas correctly noted, university officials have plenty of time to review their policies and consider the constitutionality of their actions. We’re disappointed the Court chose not to hear this case, but we are hopeful the Court will heed Justice Thomas’s recommendation and take up the doctrine of qualified immunity in the future,” Attorney Chris Schandevel, from the ADF, added.
Early this year, the ADF filed a lawsuit against the University of Alabama for the administration’s permit-to-speak rule, which mandates that students receive official approval five days before they engage in expressive activities on campus.