Supreme Court requests reponse in Hosty case

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Supreme Court has requested that the attorneys for an Illinois college administrator being sued for censoring her school newspaper file a response to the students’ petition, a move some say shows the Court is interested in case.

“Although your office has waived the right to file a response to the petition for a writ of certiorari…the Court nevertheless has directed this office to request that a response be filed,” stated a letter from the Supreme Court clerk to the Illinois Attorney General’s office dated Oct. 27 regarding the Hosty v. Carter case.

Long-time Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston wrote on his blog that the letter shows “the Supreme Court is showing some interest in the case.” Denniston has covered the court for various newspapers such as The Baltimore Sun and The Boston Globe over the course of nearly 50 years.

Three students from Governors State University in Illinois filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to hear the Hosty v. Carter case on Sept. 15.

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

When a respondent does not file a response or waives its right to a response, “if the Court believes that the petition may have some merit, the respondent will typically be asked for a response,” according to an excerpt from “Supreme Court Practice,” faxed to the Student Press Law Center by the Court’s public information office.

This action may force Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to make clear her position on college press freedom, an issue that prompted debate before she received a national freedom of information award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

The justices were expected to discuss the petition soon, but the discussion will be delayed in order to consider the response from the attorney general. The attorney general must submit a response on or before Nov. 28, according to the letter.

“This does not assure review by the justices, but it does indicate an interest in the question at stake,” Denniston wrote on his blog.

by Kim Peterson, SPLC staff writer

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