State Supreme Court reverses UAH student’s lawsuit dismissal

UAH Student's lawsuit that claims campus violates free speech proceeds
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 8:55 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The lawsuit of a University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) student progressed to the Alabama Supreme Court on Friday.

In July 2021, student Joshua Greer filed a lawsuit against UAH to challenge a campus policy on free speech. The lawsuit claims the university requires students to request a permit in advance for free speech events, it also claims that the university only allows free speech in “free speech zones.”

Greer’s lawyer Gregg Walters with the Alliance Defending Freedom believes the policy is in direct violation of the Alabama Campus Free Speech Act.

The Alabama Campus Free Speech Act, passed in 2019, required public universities to develop and adopt policies protecting campus free speech.

“Students on campus should not have to seek permission to speak freely on campus,” Walters said. “The Alabama legislature overwhelmingly passed an act called the campus free speech act which claims that the outdoor areas of campus act as public forums for students and faculty.”

In February 2022, Madison County Circuit Judge Alison Austin dismissed the lawsuit. In Judge Austin’s order, she wrote the campus’ policy actually upholds the Alabama Campus Free Speech Act.

On Friday, Alabama’s Supreme Court justice unanimously disagreed with Judge Austin’s opinion and reversed it.

In their opinion, the justices agreed with Greer’s claims and wrote that the school’s so-called “free speech zones” limit free expression. Associate Justice Jay Mitchel wrote in the opinion that the speech zones are used to “limit expression rather than facilitate it.”

Court documents show members of the court are considering whether the policy violates a law allowing the University of Alabama board to govern over its universities.

Walters said no matter what, the court should favor those seeking more freedoms.

“There’s nothing free about those free speech zones,” he said.