OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
With Democrats in control of Congress and Joe Biden in the White House, Republicans are battling multiple fronts to uphold the Constitution.
And conservatives just secured a massive victory at the U.S. Supreme Court regarding free speech.
The Supreme Court ruled in an 8-1 decision that a Georgia college’s speech code policy violated the First Amendment and that a student who was harmed by the policy can seek damages.
Justice Clarence Thomas issued the opinion of the court, writing that nominal damages claims are enough to establish standing to sue for a constitutional violation.
Chief Justice John Roberts was the only dissenter in the ruling favoring a couple of Christian students who challenged the university for restricting when, where, and how they could speak about their faith and disseminate materials on campus.
Uzuegbunam et al. v. Preczewski et al. first materialized after Chike Uzuegbunam, a student at Georgia Gwinnett College, was stopped by campus police for handing out religious materials on campus, a reported violation of the school’s “Freedom of Expression Policy,” which limited distributions and other expressions to free speech zones only with permission from the administration.
Even after Uzuegbunam moved to the designated areas with permission, however, campus police attempted to stop him from speaking and handing out religious literature, prompting him and another student, Joseph Bradford, to take legal action against the university for violating their First and 14th Amendment rights and seek nominal damages.
The students’ attempts to sue the school, however, were shot down by both a district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit after Georgia Gwinnett College changed its “Freedom of Expression” policy to remove barriers on when and where students could speak on campus and filed a motion to dismiss the case as moot.
Justice Clarence Thomas authored the opinion of the court and strongly agreed with the students’ case.
“Applying this principle here is straightforward. For purposes of this appeal, it is undisputed that Uzuegbunam experienced a complete violation of his constitutional rights when respondents enforced their speech policies against him. Because ‘every violation [of a right] imports damage,’ Webb, 29 F. Cas., at 509, nominal damages can redress Uzuegbunam’s injury even if he cannot or chooses not to quantify that harm in economic terms,” Thomas concluded.
Roberts, however, accused the Court of turning judges into “advice columnists.”
“The Supreme Court has rightly affirmed that government officials should be held accountable for the injuries they cause,” Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement.
“When public officials violate constitutional rights, it causes serious harm to the victims,” Waggoner added.
“School officials violated [Uzuegbunam’s] constitutional rights when they stopped him twice from speaking in an open area of campus,” Tyson Langhofer, the director of ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in January.
“The only permit students need to speak on campus is the First Amendment,” Langhofer added.
Beyond that, some Democrats are trying to tip the scales at the Supreme Court back in their favor.
Some liberals are wanting liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire.
Many Democrat politicians have been tiptoeing around his feelings and not directly asking him to retire because they are frightened that it may look too political.
But what they want is a new, young liberal justice on the court in the place of the 82-year-old justice