Offbeat DOJ intervenes in suit against campus speech codes

05:50  14 june  2018
05:50  14 june  2018 Source:   nbcnews.com

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On Monday, it intervened in a lawsuit against the University of Michigan, saying its regulations But Rick Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the university, said in a statement that the DOJ brief "has seriously misstated University of Michigan policy and painted a false portrait of speech on our campus .”

June 11, 2018: Feds File “Statement Of Interest” In Case Arguing UM’s Speech Codes Are The University’s Bias Response Policy and Bias Response Team, according to the DOJ , “chills” protected speech . “Freedom of speech and expression on the American campus are under attack.

Image: Exterior View Of The University Of Michigan CampusThe University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. © Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: Exterior View Of The University Of Michigan CampusThe University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.

The Department of Justice this week took on another battle in its fight against campus speech and harassment codes that conservatives have criticized as infringements on their freedom of speech, as laid out last year by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

On Monday, it intervened in a lawsuit against the University of Michigan, saying its regulations unjustly silence unpopular or offensive viewpoints.

"The University of Michigan proclaims on its website that 'freedom of speech is a bedrock principle of our community and essential to our core educational mission as a university.' Unfortunately, the university is failing to live up to that laudable principle," the Department of Justice said in a "statement of interest," a government friend-of-the-court brief.

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The Justice Department filed a “statement of interest” in a lawsuit against a public college in Georgia that slapped an evangelical student with a “disorderly Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the same DOJ statement that a “national recommitment to free speech on campus and to ensuring First

The department on Monday issued a “statement of interest” in a free- speech lawsuit filed against the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor by a group called Speech First. The department has filed similar statements in three other campus free- speech cases.

"Instead of protecting free speech, the university imposes a system of arbitrary censorship of, and punishment for, constitutionally protected speech."

In the brief, the department sided with Speech First, a Washington-based group that fights restrictions on free speech and other civil rights at colleges and universities. The lawsuit, which Speech First filed on May 8 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, alleges that the University of Michigan's harassment, bullying and bias policies are overbroad and prohibit students from speaking for fear of discipline from the university's bias response team, which comprises university administrators and officials.

In a statement attached to the lawsuit, Nicole Neily, the president of Speech First, said the group counts students at the university as members. But "Speech First's members are afraid to voice their views out of fear that their speech will be reported to the university as 'harassment,' 'bullying' or a 'bias incident,' " she said.

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The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday intervened in the court fight over whether Washington’s football team should be able to legally As part of its suit , the team argued that Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act is unconstitutional because it “effectively chills” First Amendment rights to free speech .

The Justice Department is intervening in a case at Georgia Gwinnett College involving a student’s He has been joined in the suit by another student, Joseph Bradford, who also wishes to preach on the campus . against college speech codes , said he didn’t know why this case would get the Justice

The bias response team "has a profound chilling effect on speech and expression at the university," Department of Justice lawyers said.

But Rick Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the university, said in a statement that the DOJ brief "has seriously misstated University of Michigan policy and painted a false portrait of speech on our campus."

Fitzgerald also said the bias response team does not discipline students, but instead "provides support to students on a voluntary basis."

The university updated its definitions of bullying and harassment on its website Monday.

The Michigan case is the fourth time the Department of Justice has filed a statement of interest in a First Amendment case involving freedom of speech on campus in the last year. Previous statements have challenged colleges' "free speech zones" in Georgia and California and policies for campus speakers at the University of California at Berkeley.

In February 2017, President Trump threatened to pull federal funds from the University of California at Berkeley, tweeting, "If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view — NO FEDERAL FUNDS?"

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