Monday, the Court ruled that Georgia Gwinnett College violated the free speech rights of former student Chike Uzuegbunam when it blocked him from sharing his Christian faith.
When he was a student in 2016, he was told that he had to stop sharing his faith unless he moved to one of two “speech zones” that made up less than 1% of the campus. Even after he did, he was twice threatened with discipline by campus police if he continued. His attorneys argued that the only permit required for free speech in America is the First Amendment, and as I keep trying to remind people, the entire country is a “free speech zone,” or should be.
In an opinion written by Clarence Thomas, the SCOTUS ruled that Uzuegbunam’s rights were violated and he can sue the school for damages. This reversed a lower court decision against him that found (stop me if you’ve heard this) that he didn’t “have standing” to sue for what they did to him because he’s no longer a student. I’m not a lawyer, but that sounds to me like saying I have no standing to sue someone who ran over me with a car because I’m no longer in the hospital.
You may be surprised to learn that the decision was 8-1, supported by Justices across the ideological spectrum. You won’t be surprised to hear that the lone holdout was Chief Justice John Roberts who (again, no surprise) argued that since Uzuegbunam was no longer a student, the case was moot. You know, like since the election is over, whether there was fraud or not is “moot.” He said, “Until now, we have said that federal courts can review the legality of policies and actions only as a necessary incident to resolving real disputes,” and “Today’s decision risks a major expansion of the judicial role.”
I’m no fan of judicial activism, but it’s beginning to seem as if Justice Roberts thinks there’s no such thing as a judicial role at all, including defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If he’s going to consider all cases over disputes that happened in the past to be “moot,” that would eliminate the large majority of cases that make it to court.