University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Speech First v. Schlissel FA-MI-0019
Docket / Court 4:18-cv-11451 ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
On May 8, 2018, Speech First, a nationwide membership organization of students, alumni, and others concerned with preserving the protections of the First Amendment, filed this lawsuit, on behalf of members attending the University of Michigan, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of ... read more >
On May 8, 2018, Speech First, a nationwide membership organization of students, alumni, and others concerned with preserving the protections of the First Amendment, filed this lawsuit, on behalf of members attending the University of Michigan, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiff sued the University of Michigan under 42 U.S.C.§ 1983. Represented by private counsel, Speech First sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as attorneys’ fees, claiming violations of the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The plaintiff alleged that the University of Michigan’s policies and enforcement of those policies chilled the speech and expression of student claimants. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that University’s policies on “harassment” and “bullying” were unconstitutionally overbroad because chilled and suppressed expression and speech protected by the First Amendment. Furthermore, the plaintiff alleged that the policies provided no notice to students on what would constitute “harassment” or “bullying,” and enforcement of the policies were implemented arbitrarily. 2018 WL 2123702. This case was assigned to Judge Elizabeth Stafford.

On May 11, 2018, Speech First moved for preliminary injunctions against the defendant. The plaintiff sought to prohibit the defendant from: “(1) taking any actions to investigate, threaten, or punish students for violations of the prohibitions on “harassment,” “bullying,” and “bias-related misconduct” set forth in the University’s Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities; and (2) using the Bias Response Team to investigate, threaten, or punish students (including informal punishments such as “restorative justice” or “individual education”) for “bias incidents.” On June 11, 2018, the United States filed a statement of interest in support of the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.

In response, the defendant moved for a stay on its obligation to respond to the plaintiff’s complaint. The defendant argued that the University’s answer should be stayed until the court made a decision on the plaintiff’s preliminary injunction. Although the court noted that the defendant’s request served the interest of efficiency, it did not stay the defendant's answer. Instead, on June 19, 2018, the court extended the deadline until twenty-one (21) days from the date the court ruled on the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.

The court held a hearing on Speech First's motion for preliminary injunction on July 31, 2018. On August 6, the court denied the plaintiff's motion, holding that the Bias Response Team did not pose a concrete threat to the plaintiffs; that Speech First's constitutional challenge to the University's definitions of "bullying" and "harassment" had become moot after the University changed the definitions; and that there was no threat of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs.

The plaintiff appealed this decision on August 13, 2018. The case is ongoing.

Sean Whetstone - 07/16/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
College/University
General
Education
School/University policies
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) University of Michigan
Plaintiff Description Speech First, a nonprofit nationwide membership organization of students, alumni, and others concerned with preserving the protections of the First Amendment, filed this lawsuit, on behalf of members attending the University of Michigan.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
4:18-cv-11451 (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0019-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/21/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1] (2018 WL 2123702)
FA-MI-0019-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/08/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
United States' Statement of Interest in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 14]
FA-MI-0019-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/11/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Defendants' Unopposed Motion to Stay Obligation to Answer or Otherwise Respond to Complaint [ECF# 20] (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0019-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/19/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 25] (2018 WL 3722809) (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0019-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/06/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Parker, Linda Vivienne (E.D. Mich.)
FA-MI-0019-0003 | FA-MI-0019-0004 | FA-MI-0019-9000
Stafford, Elizabeth A. Court not on record [Magistrate]
FA-MI-0019-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Giacomo, John A. Di (Michigan)
FA-MI-0019-0001 | FA-MI-0019-9000
Harris, Jeffrey M. (Virginia)
FA-MI-0019-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Baine, Kevin T. (District of Columbia)
FA-MI-0019-9000
Dawson, Rian Cierra (Michigan)
FA-MI-0019-9000
Fuzesi, Stephen J. (District of Columbia)
FA-MI-0019-9000
Hoover, Kathryn (District of Columbia)
FA-MI-0019-9000
Huget, J. Michael (Michigan)
FA-MI-0019-9000
McKinlay, Amy B. (District of Columbia)
FA-MI-0019-9000
Niehoff, Leonard M. (Michigan)
FA-MI-0019-9000
Wenner, Adam Michael (Michigan)
FA-MI-0019-9000
Other Lawyers Caplan, Peter A. (Michigan)
FA-MI-0019-0002
Chandler, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)
FA-MI-0019-0002
Gore, John M. (District of Columbia)
FA-MI-0019-0002
Helfman, Tara (District of Columbia)
FA-MI-0019-0002
Livingston, Donald R. (District of Columbia)
FA-MI-0019-0002
Schneider, Matthew (New York)
FA-MI-0019-0002

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