UPDATE, 1-30-13: Today, FIRE is pleased to release a new video interview about Barnes’ case with noted First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine and Barnes’ lawyer.
Nearly six years after he was expelled from Valdosta State University (VSU) for peacefully protesting the planned construction of parking garages on campus, former VSU student Hayden Barnes will finally be able to press the merits of his case in court. Yesterday, trial began in Barnes’s civil rights lawsuit against former VSU President Ronald Zaccari, the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia, and other VSU administrators.
The trial will be conducted in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division. It follows both a 2010 federal district court order denying, among other motions, Zaccari’s motion for summary judgment based on a “qualified immunity” defense, and a 2012 ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upholding that denial. (Qualified immunity is generally given to government officials unless they should know that their official actions are unconstitutional.) The trial will determine whether Zaccari’s decision to expel Barnes was reasonable and, if not, whether Barnes is entitled to damages.
As Torch readers know, FIRE has covered Barnes’s ordeal since 2007 and assisted him in finding counsel. We look forward to Hayden’s rights being vindicated in court.