Three briefs urge Supreme Court to hear Hosty v. Carter case

WASHINGTON D.C. — More than 30 groups are represented in three briefs filed this week urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal in the Hosty v. Carter case.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education filed a brief yesterday joined by 10 other free expression advocacy groups, including several that have defended the rights of campus conservatives.

Journalism education groups and some of the nation’s top journalism schools filed their own brief today.

The Student Press Law Center, joined by 14 student and professional news media organizations, filed a brief today as well (See PRESS RELEASE: Media groups urge high court to hear college censorship case).

FIRE’s brief, along with the other two, argues that the Hosty v. Carter case poses a threat to student press freedom.

“The Seventh Circuit’s decision in Hosty v. Carter has the potential to destroy freedom of the press on campus,” said FIRE President David French in a press release. “We hope that the Supreme Court will intervene and undo this potentially disastrous opinion.”

In a decision on June 20, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Supreme Court’s 1988 Hazelwood decision limiting high school student free expression rights could extend to college and university campuses.

The case began at Governors State University when student journalists Margaret Hosty, Jeni Porche and Steven Barba sued Dean Patricia Carter in 2001 for requiring prior approval of their student newspaper.

On Sept. 15 the students filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.

“Permitting college administrators to censor campus newspapers undermines the goal of encouraging students to mature as journalists and prevents them from learning that they are responsible for what they publish,” according to the journalism educators’ brief. “Permitting a system of prior restraint, as in [the Hosty] case, harms the interests of campus and local readers in seeking relevant and critical coverage of issues in their community, including the administration of the local university.”

“The Seventh Circuit’s decision also poses a threat to academic freedom and the exercise of First Amendment rights by faculty members,” the brief said.

Organizations that joined the FIRE brief:

Accuracy in Academia

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

Coalition for Student & Academic Rights

Feminists for Free Expression

First Amendment Project

Individual Rights Foundation

Leadership Institute

National Association of Scholars

Students for Academic Freedom

Organizations that joined the journalism educators brief:

Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication

Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism

Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment

Pennsylvania State University College of Communications

Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression

University of Georgia Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication

University of Missouri School of Journalism

Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania

S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University

—by Evan Mayor and Kim Peterson, SPLC staff writers