Rehearing date scheduled in Governors State censorship case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreedJune 25 to rehear the closely watched college censorship case involvingGovernors State University in front of the entire court, thus nullifying anearlier unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel that affirmed that prior reviewof public college newspapers is unconstitutional.

The case, Hosty v.Carter, was brought in 2000 by three college journalists at Governors StateUniversity in Illinois after an administrator ordered a publishing company torefrain from printing the student newspaper until she approved thecontent.

The court granted the petition for rehearing filed by IllinoisAttorney General Lisa Madigan who argued that the three-judge panel overlookedprevious court cases that demonstrate that the law governing free-speech rightsfor college students is not “clearly established.” Madigan contends that theU.S. Supreme Court’s 1988 decision in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, which gavemany school administrators broad censorship authority over high school studentmedia, may be applicable to speech at the college level.

Oral argumentsfor the rehearing have been set for January 8 in Chicago. The Student Press LawCenter and other media organizations have filed an amicus briefsupporting the student journalists.

SPLC View: Last spring, wepredicted that the full Seventh Circuit would refuse to rehear this case. Forreasons that remain unclear – and despite both a strong, unanimous 3-judge panelruling in January and over 30 years of consistent precedent on the issue ofcollege press freedom — a majority of the active judges of the SeventhCircuit decided in June that rehearing is appropriate. The case was importantbefore; the appellate court’s decision to rehear the case before a full panel ofjudges takes it to the next level. If your college student media organizationhas not paid attention to this case yet, now is the time to start.