The Irvine 11 were reportedly poised to file an appeal today of their misdemeanor conspiracy convictions for orchestrating serial interruptions of a UC Irvine guest speaker last year. Maintaining the line they have taken from the outset, the Muslim Student Association members contend that they have a First Amendment right to do what they did—not just shout from the audience, but shout from a script arranged by advance agreement by those who simply wanted to deny the speaker, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., a forum on the campus. They will undoubtedly lose on appeal, for reasons earlier noted here. But Erwin Chemerinsky was right. The conspiracy prosecution will do nothing but refuel the smoldering antisemitism rife on the Irvine campus for much of the last decade. Instead of treating what the students did as a crime, a civil conspiracy lawsuit for damages could have been brought by anyone able to prove resulting injury. But the only plausible plaintiff would have been the university itself, contending that its reputation as a forum for all viewpoints—an aspect of academic freedom—had suffered, and perhaps its efforts to attain a diverse student body as well. Of course if the university had begun asserting those values years ago with a pointed rebuke to attacks on any minority instead of generalized pieties condemning "hate speech" as if it were the flu, the shoutdown might never have happened.
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About the Author: Terry Francke, General Counsel
Terry Francke has a 35-year history of helping journalists, citizens and public officials understand and use their First Amendment and open government rights. With CalAware, Francke has authored comprehensive and authoritative guidebooks to California law on access to government meetings and public records and the news gathering and publication rights of journalists. Focusing on these issues in public forum law, he supervises CalAware's legislative and litigation initiatives; conducts workshops on legal compliance; helps design public records audits; supports local sunshine ordinance drafting efforts; writes CalAware Today, a blog on current developments and proposals in the law and best practices; and answers countless queries by phone and e-mail from citizens, journalists, public officials and employees, and lawyers.
Francke previously served 14 years as executive director and general counsel to the California First Amendment Coalition, after a 10-year post as legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. He has served as an advisory panel member to the National Center on Courts and the Media; taught journalism law at the Department of Communication at Stanford University; and served as an expert contributor to the 1994 major revisions to the Ralph M. Brown Act and the 2004 ballot proposition making open government a basic right of citizens under the California Constitution.
Francke is a 1967 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a 1979 graduate of McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. Prior to his legal career, Francke worked as a weekly newspaper editor and in military and local government public affairs positions.
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