The Justice Department has won a small but significant victory in the campus free-speech case of Young America’s Foundation and Berkeley College Republicans v. Napolitano. Justice didn’t have to get involved in the case, but it did so and has helped the cause of free speech. Justice’s work in the case and others like it is a reminder that good government is possible in the agencies, despite the daily White House drama.
According to a Justice Department summary of the case, the plaintiffs, YAF and BCR, allege that the University of California, Berkeley, has a double standard when it comes to free speech. BCR says that Berkeley applies more rigorous and highly discretionary policies to the events BCR seeks to offer than the university does to those arranged by other campus groups, especially for events featuring “high-profile” speakers.
The student nonprofit organizations filed their lawsuit in April 2017 having discovered how hard it is for them (though not so much for those to their left) to satisfy the university’s free-speech regulators, with some speeches by conservative figures being canceled in the wake of violent protests. The plaintiffs contend that Berkeley’s “High-Profile Speaker Policy” (which is not written down) and its “Major Events Policy” (which is) violate their First Amendment rights by granting university administrators unfettered authority to decide event locations, times, and security fees.
Janet Napolitano, the former Democratic governor of Arizona, is the defendant in the case by virtue of her status as president of UC-Berkeley. And her school, ironically the home of the 1964-65 Free Speech Movement, has lost on a motion to dismiss. YAF and BCR will now have the chance to prove their allegations.