Shapiro lawsuit against UMN partially moves forward

A U.S. district judge found that one of the claims of a First Amendment violation may be valid.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro speaks in the Northstar Ballroom of the St. Paul Student Center on Monday, Feb. 26. The speech drew a crowd of dozens of protestors in opposition to Shapiro's presence on campus.

Jack Rodgers

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro speaks in the Northstar Ballroom of the St. Paul Student Center on Monday, Feb. 26. The speech drew a crowd of dozens of protestors in opposition to Shapiro’s presence on campus.

Miguel Octavio

A U.S. district judge is allowing part of conservative speaker Ben Shapiro’s freedom of speech lawsuit against the University of Minnesota to proceed.

Judge Susan Richard Nelson partially granted the University’s motion to dismiss the complaint Tuesday, but is allowing one First Amendment challenge to proceed, according to court documents. 

Shapiro and the groups that sponsored his campus visit in early 2018 allege that the University moved the event to a smaller venue on the St. Paul campus instead of a larger venue on the Minneapolis campus due to political bias, violating their First Amendment rights. 

Plaintiffs requested for Shapiro to speak at Willey Hall, which has a capacity of around 1,000 people, but the University moved the event to the North Star Ballroom, which holds 400 people, claiming security concerns caused by Willey Hall’s central location.

Nelson acknowledged a lack of such security precautions taken during past campus events by liberal speakers as potential evidence of political bias. Court documents also acknowledged that the decision was made without knowledge of any organized protests and could have been made due to some of Shapiro’s views, which could be seen as “controversial.”

The plaintiffs — Shapiro, Young America’s Foundation and Students for a Conservative Voice — initially filed the lawsuit in July 2018.