Los Angeles Pierce College – Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit

Category: Cases, Free Speech

In November 2016, student Kevin Shaw of Pierce College in Los Angeles attempted to distribute Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution and recruit new members for his student group, Young Americans for Liberty, along the main public walkway through the heart of campus. As Shaw was setting up, a Pierce administrator approached and told him that he could not distribute literature outside of the free speech zone, a roughly parking-space-sized area of Pierce’s 426-acre campus. Shaw was also told he would have to fill out a permit application to use the free speech zone, or else he would be asked to leave campus.

On March 28, 2017, Shaw filed a lawsuit challenging Pierce’s free speech zone and the requirement that students get permission before speaking or distributing literature on campus. Since Pierce is one of nine campuses in the Los Angeles Community College District, Shaw’s suit also challenges a district-wide policy requiring each campus to designate free speech zones where student speech is to be quarantined. Shaw is represented by Arthur Willner and David Salazar of Leader & Berkon, LLP, and FIRE attorneys Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon and Brynne S. Madway.

  • Fencing in free speech at Los Angeles Pierce College (VIDEO)

    October 30, 2017

    California is supposed to embody the American dream of self determination, but as one community college student discovered, reality doesn’t always live up to our dreams. Los Angeles Pierce College student Kevin Shaw learned this lesson the hard way in November 2016 when he was distributing Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution and recruiting new members for his student group, Young Americans for Liberty, along the main public walkway on Pierce’s campus. Shortly after he began, a Pierce administrator approached and told him that he could not distribute literature outside of the “free speech area,” an ironically named zone roughly […]

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  • Department of Justice files statement of interest in FIRE lawsuit

    October 25, 2017

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2017 — The Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a statement of interest in a California student’s lawsuit against his college’s free speech zone policies. In March, Los Angeles Pierce College student Kevin Shaw filed a lawsuit challenging Pierce College and Los Angeles Community College District policies that restrict student free speech rights to tiny “free speech zones.” The lawsuit is part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Million Voices Campaign. “The United States has an interest in protecting the individual rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” according to the statement of interest, a brief […]

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  • FIRE statement on Department of Justice’s statement of interest in Shaw v. Burke

    October 24, 2017

    On Oct. 24, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in a lawsuit filed in March as part of FIRE’s Million Voices Campaign against administrators and trustees of Los Angeles Pierce College and the Los Angeles Community College District. The lawsuit was filed by FIRE attorneys in partnership with Arthur Willner, a partner at Leader & Berkon LLP, who is co-counsel with FIRE in the case. In addition to challenging Pierce College’s unconstitutional free speech zone and permit requirement, the lawsuit also challenges an LACCD policy that requires the president of each LACCD college to designate at least one free speech zone on […]

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  • In speech, AG Jeff Sessions joins a nonpartisan chorus in support of campus free expression

    September 26, 2017

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2017 — In a speech today at Georgetown University, Attorney General Jeff Sessions focused attention on the state of free speech on America’s college and university campuses. “The right of free speech does not exist only to protect the ideas upon which most of us agree at a given moment in time,” he noted, urging the students in attendance to “make your voices heard, [and] to defend the rights of others to do the same.” During his remarks, Sessions recognized the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s work tracking restrictive campus speech codes through our Spotlight database and […]

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  • Jefferson Muzzles 2017: Free expression group awards America’s worst censors

    April 27, 2017

    What does it take to be one of the worst censors in the United States? Just ask Pierce College and the Los Angeles Community College District — recipients of a 2017 Jefferson Muzzle “award” and the targets of FIRE’s most recent lawsuit for violating students’ First Amendment rights. The good folks at the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression have the unenviable annual task of figuring out the worst censors in the country. Through clenched fists, exasperated gasps, and tear-filled eyes (at least, that’s how we like to imagine it), the TJ Center on Wednesday released their […]

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  • LA Times editorial board on FIRE lawsuit: ‘Don’t squeeze free speech on college campuses’

    April 6, 2017

    Yesterday, the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times penned an editorial in support of Los Angeles Pierce College student Kevin Shaw’s fight against a restrictive “free speech zone” on his Los Angeles campus. Shaw filed the lawsuit with the support of FIRE’s Million Voices Campaign, which aims to free 1 million students from similar speech restrictions. “When a public college or university squeezes the expression of political views into a tightly circumscribed area, it not only undermines its commitment to the free exchange of ideas; it runs afoul of the 1st Amendment,” wrote the editorial board. Don’t squeeze free […]

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  • Student sues Los Angeles Community College District to free over 150,000 students from unconstitutional ‘free speech zones’

    March 28, 2017

    Student Kevin Shaw was told he could not hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution outside Pierce College’s tiny “free speech zone,” which comprises just .003 percent of campus. Pierce College is part of the 150,000-student Los Angeles Community College District, which maintains unconstitutional policies restricting campus speech. The lawsuit is the first in FIRE’s new “Million Voices” litigation campaign. LOS ANGELES, March 28, 2017—The U.S. Constitution prohibits public colleges from quarantining free speech, but that’s exactly what the 150,000 students of the Los Angeles Community College District endure when they wish to exercise their First Amendment rights. Today, Los […]

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