Staten Island paper loses at trial court

NEW YORK ‘ Former student editors of the College Voice at the College of Staten Island are preparing to appeal a federal district judge’s March 28 decision in a case where student government officers impounded an issue of the newspaper.

Judge Nina Gershon dismissed the charges that members of the paper had brought against members of the student government. Gershon said the student government officers were not state actors when they impounded the newspapers, and therefore did not violate the editor’s First Amendment rights.

Editors at the newspaper sued the school’s student government officers and the City University of New York system after the student government elections of spring 1997 were canceled because the officers and the college objected to the coverage the newspaper had given one of the political parties.

The Voice endorsed a slate of candidates for election. Student government officers impounded the issue of the newspaper at the printer so that readers could not be influenced before the vote. College officials then canceled the elections and rescheduled them, saying the paper had inappropriately used its student-fee funding to publish campaign endorsements.

When the student government withheld the papers, the Voice retained an attorney who informed the officers he would seek a court order to have them released. Members of the college’s administration eventually overruled the student government and ordered the papers released.

Gershon said the student government members were not state actors, and could not be held accountable, contrary to other decisions in the state. New York’s public information law has also been applied to student government members.

CASE: Husain v. Springer, 193 F.Supp.2d 664 (E.D.N.Y. 2002)