ILLINOIS — College media advocates have been on the edge of their seats since January 2004 awaiting a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Hosty v. Carter — a ruling that was expected months ago.
After the Governor’s State University Innovator published several articles critical of the administration in 2000, university Dean of Student Affairs Patricia Carter asserted the university had the power to practice prior review of its student newspaper. Innovator editors objected, but in November 2000 Carter called the paper’s publisher to demand the printing be halted. Carter left the university in 2002.
Managing Editor Margaret Hosty, editor Jeni Porche and reporter Steven Barba filed suit against Carter in federal court in January 2001, claiming her effort to practice prior review constituted a First Amendment violation. The Innovator has not been published since.
After Carter halted the printing, the Phoenix, Governor’s State University’s new student newspaper, began printing.
In November 2001, the Federal district court allowed the case to go forward. The university appealed in early 2002, arguing that the 1988 Supreme Court ruling in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, which allows high school administrators to review student publications before they are published, should be applied to university publications.
But the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that claim.
On July 25, 2003, the court granted Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s petition on Carter’s behalf to rehear the case, vacating the April 10 decision.
On Jan. 8, 2004, the court of appeals heard oral arguments.
James Tidwell, a journalism professor at Eastern Illinois University and member of the College Media Advisers said it is “amazing” that the court has not made its decision yet.
If the court rules against the students, Tidwell said he hopes the court will decide that Carter has qualified immunity from being sued, rather than broadening the scope of Hazelwood to apply to colleges. The court could rule that because the law was “unsettled” when school officials censored the Innovator, the school should not be held liable.
Dick Goehler, the attorney who argued the case on behalf of the students, said he checks almost every day for a court decision. “I think it’s a little dangerous to speculate one way or another,” Goehler said, though he said he felt the students had a good case. “We thought the questions [the judges asked during oral argument] seemed positive for us.”
Stay up to date on Hosty v. Carter by visiting www.splc.org/gsu.