TX judge strikes down UT profs' challenge to campus carry
A Texas judge has struck down a lawsuit filed against the University of Texas by three of its professors who requested exemption from the state’s new campus carry law.
According to the plaintiffs, the new law, which took effect August 1, would inhibit their ability to speak freely in the classroom, thus violating their First Amendment rights.
“The Campus Carry Law...[cannot] be reasonably construed as a direct regulation of speech.”
Additionally, they argued that the new law would violate their Fourteenth Amendment rights as well, specifically their right to due process under the law by the enforcement of a policy that is unconstitutionally vague.
This line of reasoning likely stems from the new law’s provision that while a public institution can have some gun free zones, such as a professor’s office, it cannot have the general effect of prohibiting guns on campus.
Judge Lee Yeakel, though, was not persuaded by the argument and ruled that a “person of ordinary intelligence” would understand the discrepancies of the policy.
Similarly, Yeakel was unconvinced by the plaintiffs’ First Amendment objection, noting in his 11-page opinion that “neither the Campus Carry Law nor the Campus Carry Policy is a content-based regulation of speech, nor can either be reasonably construed as a direct regulation of speech.”
“The provisions do not prohibit, require, or even mention any form of speech by professors of the university,” he added. “The burden of which Plaintiffs complain therefore does not fit within any recognized right of academic freedom.”
Ultimately, Yeakel concluded that neither the Texas legislature nor UT’s Board of Regents had “overstepped its legitimate power to determine where a licensed individual may carry a concealed handgun in an academic setting.”
The professors’ attorney, however, told Dallas News that while his clients are “obviously disappointed,” he will “continue to pull together the evidence and facts for the trial.”
"Sometimes public policy is so terrible and so extreme that it takes the courts ... by surprise, and a little while to catch up," he added.
UT president Gregory Fenves wrote in a statement that he will continue to work with any professors who may have concerns with the law, and committed himself to upholding the school’s “core values” of academic freedom and free speech.
On the other hand, Ann Maria Mackin, an attorney representing the school, criticized the plaintiff’s arguments as being “rooted in assumptions and prejudices,” a sentiment that Judge Yeakel ultimately agreed with.
Notably, the state’s Attorney General, Ken Paxton, was one of the first to lambast the suit, calling it “frivolous” and lacking “legal justification.”
“The Legislature passed a constitutionally-sound law,” Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote earlier this month. “There is no legal justification to deny licensed, law-abiding citizens on campus the same measure of personal protection they are entitle to elsewhere in Texas.”
Yeakel’s decision comes just two days before classes begin at UT, preempting any uncertainty as to whether students with a concealed handgun license will be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights when they return to campus.
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