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Hoggard v. Rhodes

FIRE filed an amicus curiae brief in support of student Ashlyn Hoggard’s petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. In 2017, Arkansas State University officials stopped Hoggard from setting up a table near the student union to recruit fellow students for a new chapter of Turning Point USA. Although the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that Hoggard’s First Amendment rights were violated, the panel granted university officials qualified immunity.

FIRE’s brief urges the Court to grant review to clarify that qualified immunity does not shield public university officials from liability for enforcing university speech codes substantially similar to those that already have been invalidated by other courts. For over 40 years, the Supreme Court has long established that First Amendment protections apply with full force on public university campuses, as in the community at large. Under this clearly established principle, courts have routinely struck down campus speech codes that restrict student expression at our nation’s public institutions of higher education. 

Yet, as FIRE’s Spotlight on Speech Codes 2021 report details, 318 out of the 372 public universities surveyed (or more than 85%) maintain policies on student expression that violate the First Amendment. Broadly interpreting qualified immunity like the Eighth Circuit did in this case, effectively eliminates the possibility of holding public university administrators accountable for violating student First Amendment rights.