On the Docket

Supreme Court won’t review ban on alcohol ads in college newspapers

VIRGINIA — The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Virginia’s ban on alcohol advertising in college newspapers.

The high court’s Nov. 27 move keeps the ban in place, letting stand an April decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. There, the court found the state’s ban did not facially violate the First Amendment.

The case now returns to the district court to resolve two outstanding issues: Whether the ban, as applied specifically to the two college papers challenging it, infringes on press freedom, and whether it is unconstitutional because it targets only college media.

Virginia argues the regulation advances its interest in preventing underage drinking. Press advocates say the majority of campus readers are over 21, and the rule hurts the publications’ advertising revenue.

Court tosses teacher’s libel suit against high school publication

NEVADA — A state court in August dismissed a libel suit filed against the Churchill County High School student newspaper editor and district officials.

District Judge William Rogers threw the case out under Nevada’s “anti-SLAPP” statute, which protects people from suits designed to stifle discussion of public issues.

Kathleen Archey, a music teacher at CCHS, sued over a news story in the school’s student newspaper, The Flash. The paper reported on allegations by parents that Archey did not forward some of her students’ audition tapes to a state choir competition, according to court records.

Rogers also held that public school teachers are considered public officials who must meet a high standard to win libel suits.

Ill. censorship struck down in first test of state ‘anti-Hosty’ law

ILLINOIS — For the first time a federal court has ruled that Illinois college newspapers are protected from administrative censorship under state law.

The decision allows former Chicago State University Tempo editor George Providence II and adviser Gerian Moore to continue their First Amendment lawsuit against the university. It was the first test of Illinois’ 2007 College Campus Press Act.

The judge also ruled that because Providence might consider attending the school at a later time, he retained standing, or the legal ability to sue.

This principle could have major implications in student press law, enabling a student to drop out or transfer away from a harassing administration while retaining the ability to fight the problem in court as long as he or she does not graduate.

Internal memos from Medill student journalists released over objections

ILLINOIS — Prosecutors succeeded in gaining access to the primary documents they sought from the files of student journalists enrolled in the Medill Innocence Project investigative reporting class at Northwestern University.

Prosecutors subpoenaed all of the journalistic work product of students who investigated the 20-year-old murder conviction of Anthony McKinney, who is seeking a new trial. Northwestern argued that the material was protected from disclosure by the reporter’s privilege. But the school backed down from that argument after determining that memos written by student journalists to instructor David Protess had been shared with McKinney’s legal team, which — in the eyes of Judge Diane Cannon — waived any claim of privilege.

An undisclosed number of student documents were turned over to prosecutors in November.