Court Rules First Amendment Protects Professor's Right to Post Fliers
U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that former University
of Montana-Northern theater professor Douglas Giebels free
speech rights were violated when fellow professor Stephen Sylvester
tore down Giebels handbills, posted to advertise his appearance
at a campus event on, ironically, intellectual freedom.
was not the first time the two professors didn't quite see eye to
eye. Sylvester was chairman of the Department of Humanities during
Giebels unsuccessful attempt to obtain tenure at the university.
According to Giebel, throughout the process, Sylvester was an out-spoken
opponent of Giebels continued employment at the university.
Shortly thereafter, Giebel filed a lawsuit, which he subsequently
lost, challenging the decision not to grant him a tenure-track position
as a theater professor at the university.
year after he left the university (with his lawsuit still pending),
Giebel was invited back to campus to participate in a university
conference on intellectual freedom. He posted fliers on campus bulletin
boards advertising his speech at the conference only to learn later
that Sylvester was tearing them down. Fearing additional action,
he withdrew from the conference.
as his own attorney, Giebel filed a lawsuit in federal district
court alleging that Sylvester violated his free speech rights. Sylvester
filed a motion for summary judgment that was denied by the lower
court and he then appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
He argued that Giebels handbills did not contain expressive
content protected by the First Amendment and that the university
provided the conference as another forum for Giebel to speak.
appeals court panel, in a decision by Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt,
rejected Sylvesters arguments and ruled that his conduct was
a violation of Giebels first amendment rights. Judge Reinhardt
stated in the opinion, "Suppression of notices announcing an
upcoming speech is suppression of the view to be communicated through
the speech, because a speech to an empty auditorium no matter how
brilliant it may be or how persuasive its delivery, does not convey
any message to anyone."
a copy of the decision click on:
Ninth Circuit Court Decision in Giebel v. Sylvester
To read Doug
Giebel's intriguing story behind this case click on:
v. Sylvester: The Plaintiffs Story
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