Groups to argue

Three student services fees-funded groups will attempt for a third time to join the University’s side in a lawsuit against the fees system in a hearing before an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel.
Lawyers on both sides say the outcome of the Nov. 20 hearing could have a significant impact on the case.
In February, five students filed suit against the University, claiming their First Amendment rights are violated because student services fees fund groups who engage in political and ideological activities.
The La Raza Student Cultural Center, the Queer Student Cultural Center and University YW student groups were specifically named in the lawsuit. The groups have since tried to join the University’s side of the suit to protect what they say are their First Amendment rights to free speech.
Jordan Lorence, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said the student groups have a significant free speech argument. He added that if the appeals court allows the groups to join the case, he will have difficulty winning.
“If (the student groups) are correct, then we have no lawsuit whatsoever,” Lorence said.
Pat Logue, attorney for the student groups, plans to argue that the First Amendment does not grant the right to withhold student services fees from student groups. Anyone on campus can seek funding for his or her point of view, she said.
“It is a right for the student groups to intervene in the suit,” Logue said.
The argument made by Logue is unusual, said Lorence, since she is trying to put the student groups’ rights above the rights of individual students, a move he called “clearly wrong.”
Lorence said arguments like Logue’s were rejected in a recent ruling against the University of Wisconsin, which is fighting a lawsuit similar to the one filed against the University of Minnesota. The University of Wisconsin lost its case and must revamp its student fees system — unless an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is granted.
But in a brief submitted to the 8th circuit court, Logue cited many precedents which support her view that the student groups’ rights to intervene should have been granted in the lower courts.
On June 10 a federal magistrate judge ruled that the groups had no relevant stake in the case and therefore had no right to join.
But if the appeal is granted and intervention is allowed, the groups will be granted the right to be party to the suit with the ability to file motions, take depositions and argue the case.
While the University is capable of defending the suit, Logue said, the student groups would rather be part of the trial.
Logue said her clients are more comfortable getting involved in the case rather than letting the University defend their interests.
“The University doesn’t have the First Amendment rights the student groups have,” she added.
For example, the University doesn’t speak on behalf of gay issues like the Queer Student Cultural Center does, Logue said.
University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said if the court allows the student groups to join the suit, the University will willingly work with them.
Lorence said he doesn’t want the two-on-one battle that would inevitably occur if the student groups join the fight. Besides, he said, the University could adequately defend the student services fees system.
Kjersten Reich, third-year College of Liberal Arts student and co-chairwoman of the Queer Student Cultural Center, said the groups want to intervene because they believe in the fees system the way it is — not biased toward anyone.
“It’s like a bus system,” she said. “It’s up to student organizations to apply for funding just like it is up to citizens to decide to use the bus.”
Juan Telles, a member of La Raza and second-year business education student, said all of its programs and activities are open to every viewpoint without discrimination.