Campus moves to dismiss First Amendment lawsuit

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Daniel Kim /File

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UC Berkeley filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed against several campus administrators for their past handling of conservative speakers’ planned campus visits.

The motion asks the court to dismiss the lawsuit penned by the Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, and the Young America’s Foundation, or YAF. The outcome of the lawsuit will be decided by a judge before, during or after the hearing September 29.

The original complaint was filed April 24. The plaintiffs allege that the campus violated the First Amendment through “discriminatory imposition of curfew and venue restrictions” for conservative speech, according to the complaint.

In April, the campus requested that conservative writer David Horowitz speak in the Clark Kerr Krutch Theatre, which the plaintiffs allege is more than one mile from the center of campus. The campus also required that the speech start by 1 p.m.

According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, these restrictions are “common sense” and were put in place to ensure security based on information provided by police officials.

The early start time was attributed to concerns that protests could extend into the late afternoon when the most people move through campus. The campus argued that that the decision to host the event at Clark Kerr was “content and viewpoint neutral,” citing concerns to protect students.

The motion asserts that UC Berkeley’s proposed alternative was as “equidistant from the primary residence halls” as the Genetic and Plant Biology Building, BCR’s original requested location.

YAF argues that non-conservative guests are allowed to speak without such restrictions.

Examples cited include former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox Quesada, and presidential adviser to former president Clinton, Maria Echaveste, both of whom spoke April 17 after 3 p.m. The campus responded to this claim by pointing to a lack of “threats to security accompanying the speeches” of Fox and Echaveste.

The campus also cites a new policy for managing guest speakers, which will be implemented over the next year, as reason to dismiss the complaint. According to Mogulof, the campus will hear the input of students and city residents when designing this policy.

An interim version of the new policy is scheduled to take effect right before the fall semester, and to be implemented in January 2018.

YAF criticized the announcement of a new policy as “absurd.” They argue that “UC-Berkeley administrators should base any policies protecting students’ constitutional rights on the Constitution itself,” according to a statement released on their website Thursday.

The campus argued that the court cannot issue a declaration on the past lawfulness of a state action.

Plaintiff attorney Harmeet Dhillon responded to this claim by distinguishing that the complaint is not solely based on the campus’s handling of Coulter’s and Horowitz’s visits. She asserts that the case is not “limited to backward looking damages,” but also to current and future campus policies.

BCR criticized the motion as “preposterous” in an email from BCR External Vice President Naweed Tahmas.

“While I am happy that the university has finally realized their draconian policies need reform, it does not excuse them of their past actions,” Tahmas said in the email.

A response brief from the plaintiffs is due August 11, and the campus will have until August 25 to respond.

Contact Henry Tolchard at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @htolchard.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly quoted Naweed Tahmas as saying “campus” when he said “university.”

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  • California Defender

    Berkeley has admitted they are in the wrong by hastily issuing a new policy on guest speakers. Who knows what’s in the new policy, but it certainly doesn’t insulate them from current or future legal action. Quite the opposite as it just worsened Berkeley’s legal troubles.

    I’m also happy to hear Berkeley claim that leftist speakers don’t need restrictive speaking policies because there is no threat of violence against them. Thanks for the admission that the left is violent and the right is not. Yet another moral victory for the good guys and, with hope, legal and financial, too.

    • lspanker

      A small moral victory, perhaps, but I wouldn’t sit around waiting for the admin to do the right thing. A bunch of political hacks who are physical and moral cowards aren’t going to stop the deranged loony left. It’s up to all of us to keep the heat on them…

      • California Defender

        You’re right, the day Berkeley supports free speech (without being forced by legal action), THAT will be a day to truly celebrate.

        Until that good day, we defenders of justice, democracy, and the Constitution must keep the heat on them.

    • koko

      Previous posting detected as spam.

      A good faith request for explanation:

      1. How did you get from “Berkeley perceives no threat of violence against leftist speakers [in the city of Berkeley]” to “the left is [veridically, generally, and absolutely] violent and the right is not”?

      2. Why does “Democrats/liberals” mean “the left” (rather than “centrists,” “leftists-in-name-only,” or, dare I say, “neoliberals”)?

      3. Perhaps the right “isn’t violent” (if you accept that premise) because it won decades ago? When Blacks and Hispanics (i) dominate the Government, the Professoriate, the Corporate world, and every other institution for a few centuries; (ii) have the chance to redefine “merit” and “Americanness” in their image; (iii) change the bad joke called affirmative action to a form of welfare for white people, we might see the extent of the right’s nonviolent constitution.

      -Not a leftist but probably not a “good guy”

      • California Defender

        Thank you for the valid questions. I’ll do my best to answer them:

        1. All leftists are not violent. But most violence at political rallies, speeches, and marches is escalated/perpetrated by the left as a method to increase visibility, but more commonly now with the intent to suppress other views or (failing that) to intimidate and terrorize.

        2. Democrats/liberals do not automatically mean “the left”. A Democrat is simply a member of that party regardless of ideology. It’s a meaningless label to me, just like Republican. A leftist has departed from centrism or liberalism for a radical ideology where compromise, tolerance, and open debate is no longer accepted (have you seen Hamburg today?).

        3. Let’s look at your question another way to find the answer. Do whites have the historical and moral justification to control the government, professoriate, and corporate world in America? To define what is American? To act in their own best interest as a nation? Do they in the UK, Germany or Italy? Do Hispanics and Blacks have such historical and moral justification in Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Angola, or Somalia?

        It seems you’re trying to make an argument against multiculturalism. I think we have some common ground although approached from different directions. You’re certainly not a bad guy. Probably even a good one, even if you don’t think so. ;)