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2nd Circuit Court

‘Impressive Benchslappery’ Noted

Posted Jul 17, 2007 9:11 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Bloggers are taking about a humorous dissenting opinion in a free speech case brought by college newspaper editors against their school.

This dissenter is Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He says the suit over nullification of a student election was "about nothing" and "should not occupy the mind of a person who has anything consequential to do," the New York Law Journal reports. Jacobs said he didn’t even bother to read the majority opinion, although he noted its length.

"Contrary to the impression created by the majority's lengthy formal opinion, this case is not a cause célèbre; it is a slow-motion tantrum by children spending their graduate years trying to humiliate the school that conferred on them a costly education from which they evidently derived small benefit," Jacobs wrote.

“Ouch!” says the blog Above the Law, which calls the opinion “some impressive benchslappery.”

The majority opinion said the president of the College of Staten Island violated a student’s free speech rights when she nullified a student election on the ground it was unfairly influenced by a student newspaper endorsement, the Staten Island Advance reports.

However the majority said it was inappropriate to grant summary judgment because it was unclear if the college president’s actions were reasonable, entitling her to qualified immunity.

The decision is Husain v. Springer, No. 04-5250-cv (PDF). The dissent begins on page 45.

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