Student groups ask for alliance with University defense

The three student groups targeted in the student services fees lawsuit made another attempt to join the suit Friday in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul.
Two previous such requests were denied by a magistrate judge and the U.S. District Court of Appeals.
The Queer Student Cultural Center, La Raza Student Cultural Center and University YW hope to enter their side of the argument into the suit, a position they proclaim is different from the University’s, but equally relevant, said Pat Logue, the student groups’ attorney.
Five students brought the suit in February challenging the University’s practice of forcing students to pay the fee, explicitly naming the three groups, which they maintain hold political and ideological viewpoints. Altogether, the three groups receive a quarterly sum of $1.09 from each student registered for six or more credits.
University officials have indicated that while they feel the University can adequately defend against the suit, they would be willing to work with the student groups.
While attempting to make an argument in favor of the intervention, Logue was constantly interrupted by judges’ questions.
She opened the hearing by saying the student groups do not want to be left on the sidelines when the case goes to trial.
But Judge Pascom Bowman II from Kansas City, one of three judges hearing the arguments, interjected almost immediately; he questioned whether allowing the three groups to intervene would open the door to all other groups receiving funding to join the suit.
Logue countered by saying that because the three groups were specifically targeted in the suit, their First Amendment rights were threatened. Since the University is not defending the suit from this standpoint, she said the student groups felt the need to join.
“The University has no speech to defend,” Logue said.
Bowman spoke up again, asking if there was an absolute right to receive fees.
“There is no absolute right to fees,” Logue said. “But there is an absolute right to viewpoint-neutral funding.”
Logue said her clients are entitled to join the suit so they can help keep the system intact. In the event of a settlement, the groups would want to be present to contribute to negotiations.
If the groups are not allowed to intervene and the fee system changes, Logue said she will bring suit against the University.
Jordan Lorence, the attorney for the students bringing the suit, argued in front of the judges after Logue, but only briefly. He said after the hearing that when the judges questioned Logue, they made all of his major points for him.
“The judges were doing all the heavy lifting for me,” Lorence said.
Arguing against intervention, Lorence said the University will defend the fee system adequately, thus the groups didn’t really need to join the suit. If the court finds for the groups, there will be three sides to the case: Lorence and his clients against the University and Logue with her clients.
But Lorence did say the lawsuit is not questioning the fees themselves, but how they are collected.
Regardless of the interruptions, Logue said after the hearing she had expected the judges to ask the questions they did.
It is now up to the three-judge panel to decide the student groups’ fate; an exact date for the decision is not known, but it is an expedited appeal, meaning the process is supposed to be done quickly.
The actual suit against the University, Matthew Curry, et al v. The Board of Regents, is still sitting in U.S. District Court with very little activity.
The discovery period, in which both sides involved gather and exchange information, begins Jan. 1 and is expected to last several months.
If allowed to intervene, the student groups will take part in this process.