HOUSTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM v. WILSON | The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Case Overview

Legal Principle at Issue

"Did the Board’s censure offend Mr. Wilson’s First Amendment right to free speech?"

Action

"Mr. Wilson does not possess an actionable First Amendment claim arising from the Board’s purely verbal censure."

Facts/Syllabus

"In 2013, David Wilson was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Houston Community College System (HCC), a public entity that operates various community colleges. Mr. Wilson often disagreed with the Board about the best interests of HCC, and he brought multiple lawsuits challenging the Board’s actions. By 2016, these escalating disagreements led the Board to reprimand Mr. Wilson publicly. Mr. Wilson continued to charge the Board—in media outlets as well as in state-court actions—with violating its ethical rules and bylaws. At a 2018 meeting, the Board adopted another public resolution, this one 'censuring' Mr. Wilson and stating that Mr. Wilson’s conduct was 'not consistent with the best interests of the College' and 'not only inappropriate, but reprehensible.' The Board imposed penalties in addition to the verbal censure, among them deeming Mr. Wilson ineligible for Board officer positions during 2018. Mr. Wilson amended the pleadings in one of his pending state-court lawsuits to add claims against HCC and the trustees under 42 U.S.C. §1983, asserting that the Board’s censure violated the First Amendment."

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