WATCH: Judge interjects to reject notion that universities are 'bastions of free speech'

'Does it matter if that’s not true anymore?,' Judge Milan Smith quipped in response to an attorney's statement that 'universities are bastions for free speech.'

Last year, Clovis Community College students sued the school for free speech violations when administrators removed their anti-communist flyers on campus.

Ninth Circuit Court Judge Milan Smith interjected during attorney Daniel Ortner’s remarks with a jest on the state of higher education in America, as seen in a recent clip uploaded to X.

An attorney for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), Ortner is seen presenting an oral argument defending conservative students’ free speech rights against California’s Clovis Community College. 

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This court, and the Supreme Court, have repeatedly said that universities are bastions for free speech. They are important places for freedom of expression and debate …” states Ortner 

“Does it matter if that’s not true anymore?” Judge Smith jokingly interrupted.

“We’d like to see it be that way and the courts play an important role in ensuring that freedom of expression on popular ideas are not chilled” Ortner answered.

“It’s even more important now than ever that this court and [all] courts take a strong stance in defense of free speech in the university setting,” Ortner added.

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The case, Flores v. Bennett, was initially filed by FIRE in August 2022 on behalf of three conservative students from the Clovis Community College chapter of Young Americans for Freedom against former college president Lori Bennett.

At that time, Campus Reform reported that the students were pursuing the lawsuit because anti-communist flyers were taken down by college officials despite the YAF student members receiving prior approval to display them. The students argue that this constituted a violation of their First Amendment rights.

Follow Courtney McLain on X.