FIRE and Broad Coalition File Brief Defending Free Speech in Student ‘Facebook Collage’ Case

ATLANTA, December 17, 2013—Yesterday evening, 11 organizations joined the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in filing an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief in the case of Barnes v. Zaccari. The brief asks the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to reverse a federal district court’s September 2010 ruling dismissing former Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes’ First Amendment claim against former VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari. In May 2007, Zaccari expelled Barnes for peacefully protesting Zaccari’s plan to construct two parking garages on campus, calling a collage Barnes posted on his personal Facebook page a “threatening document” and labeling Barnes a “clear and present danger” to VSU. The brief was jointly submitted to the Eleventh Circuit by FIRE, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the Cato Institute, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Individual Rights Foundation, the National Coalition Against Censorship, Reason Foundation, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, Students For Liberty, and the Student Press Law Center. Attorney Lawrence G. Walters of Walters Law Group represented FIRE and all signatory organizations in the brief’s filing. Barnes has already prevailed on a separate due process claim. A federal jury awarded Barnes $50,000 in compensatory damages this February, holding Zaccari personally liable for violating Barnes’ constitutional right to due process by expelling him without notice or a hearing.

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