Thursday, August 12, 2004
Suit by Conservative Activists on Santa Cruz Campus Rejected on Eleventh Amendment Grounds
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A suit by conservative activists at UC Santa Cruz, challenging student election procedures that the plaintiffs complained violated their First Amendment rights, was rejected yesterday by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Eleventh Amendment and mootness grounds.
The panel affirmed a ruling by U.S. District Judge James Ware of the Northern District of California dismissing the case.
The dispute arose after the spring 2002 election for positions in the Student Union Assembly. Students for a Conservative America and three members of that group who ran for offices on the campus—known for the liberalism of its students, faculty, and surrounding community—without success filed the suit in October 2002, naming the chancellor, vice chancellor, SUA chair, and SUA elections commissioners as defendants.
The plaintiffs alleged that a limit on campaign spending and a ban on mentioning the name of a candidate for another office in advertising—effectively preventing the formation of campus political parties or slates—violated the First Amendment. They also claimed they were denied due process because the SUA held a meeting to consider alleged violations of the elections code without giving them the opportunity to be heard.
They sought a declaration that the challenged provisions were unconstitutional, an injunction barring their use in future elections, a new election, and an order expunging any record of election code violations from their files.
In dismissing the action, Ware ruled that the request for a new election was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. He also ruled that to the extent the suit sought prospective injunctive relief, which would fall outside the scope of Eleventh Amendment immunity, it was moot because the objected-to regulations had been repealed while suit was pending and the university said it would not reenact them absent changes in federal law.
Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder said the district judge was correct on both points. She rejected the groupís claim that it was seeking prospective relief in the form of a new election. Since this would necessarily undo the election that was held before suit was filed, the jurist explained, the Eleventh Amendment applies and the defendants, all state officials sued in their official capacities, are entitled to dismissal.
“Because the University has withdrawn the challenged provisions and committed not to reenact them unless federal law changes, these provisions will not be applied in future elections. The case is therefore moot because the plaintiffs are not suffering any ongoing injury and there is no reasonable expectation that the injury the plaintiffs suffered will recur.”
Nor can the plaintiffs obtain relief from the alleged recording of election code violations in their files, the chief judge said, because there was no evidence that the university places any such records in student files.
The case is Students for a Conservative America v. Greenwood, 03-15199.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company