DOJ Claims Victory in Campus Free Speech Case

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The Department of Justice announced on Friday what it called a victory in campus free speech litigation.

"It's unacceptable when the institutions established to promote diversity of thought and robust debate instead use their authority to stifle these principles on their campuses," Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement. "Attorney General Jeff Sessions is committed to promoting free speech on college campuses, and the Department is proud to have played a small part in Young America's Foundation's victory this week in their free speech case against UC Berkeley."

The case, Young America's Foundation v. Napolitano, was brought by the Berkeley chapter of the Young America's Foundation against former attorney general and now president of the University of California system Janet Napolitano, as well as various associated administrators.

The students allege that two campus speech policies, instituted in the wake of campus protests of high-profile conservative speakers, have granted administrators essentially unfettered discretion to determine when students' invited guests can exercise their free speech rights on a public campus.

The Department of Justice joined that litigation with a statement of interest in January. It argued that the case should be allowed to proceed on First Amendment grounds, agreeing with the Berkeley students that the policies gave administrators "unbridled discretion to impose time, place, and manner restrictions" on events, and further arguing that Berkeley's "exorbitant" security fees were an unconstitutional burden on free speech.

A federal judge agreed on Wednesday with these arguments as regards the viability of the case. She denied Berkeley's motion to dismiss the case, allowing it to move forward into substantive arguments.

This is not the first time that the Sessions Justice Department has involved itself with the campus free speech fight. Last September, the attorney general spoke about the importance of campus speech as an event he was headlining at Georgetown University faced protests. And in October, the Justice Department supported another group of California students, this one having been barred from handing out copies of the Constitution on their campus.

"The Justice Department will continue to seek opportunities to defend free speech—no matter the political ideology espoused—in order to defend our nation's great traditions and the ability of its citizens to engage in meaningful discourse," O'Malley said.

Charles Fain Lehman

Charles Fain Lehman   Email Charles | Full Bio | RSS
Charles Fain Lehman is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He writes about policy, covering crime, law, drugs, immigration, and social issues. Reach him on twitter (@CharlesFLehman) or by email at

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