Background of Abbott v. Pastides Amicus Brief
By Brynne S. Madway, Associate Attorney, Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, FIRE:
The case started in November 2015 when the University of South Carolina (USC) College Libertarians and Young Americans for Liberty chapters held an outdoor event focusing on free speech. At the event, the student organizations displayed posters illustrating incidents of censorship at colleges and universities throughout the country. After the event, USC received three student complaints that some of the posters were “offensive” and “triggering.” USC served one of the student organizers, Ross Abbott, with a “Notice of Charge” letter, investigated him, and threatened him with punishment. The investigation was dropped after Abbott met with an administrator and answered for the students’ constitutionally protected speech.
With FIRE’s help, Abbott and the student groups filed suit to ensure that their peers would not be investigated or punished for protected speech in the future. The suit challenges a number of USC policies that limit free speech, including the university’s free speech zone policy and its overbroad and vague harassment policy. Unfortunately, last month the defendants’ motion for summary judgment was granted, and the suit was dismissed. A copy of the opinion and notice of appeal are attached.
I write today because the plaintiffs are appealing the decision and need amicus support. Given the importance of this case to student speech rights at public campuses nationwide, FIRE is looking for organizations that would be interested in filing or joining amicus curiae briefs written by others. We believe that a coalition of strong amici would help to vindicate the students’ rights in the Fourth Circuit.