Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: July 9, 2020
  • Case #: 19-968
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 781 F. App'x 824 (11th Cir. 2019)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether a government's post-filing change of an unconstitutional policy moots nominal-damages claims that vindicate the government's past, completed violation of a plaintiffs constitutional right.

Petitioner was a student at Georgia Gwinnett College and was stopped while distributing religious materials on campus because Petitioner was outside the “free speech expression” zone. After Petitioner began the same conduct in the free speech space, Petitioner was stopped for “disorderly conduct” after a complaint. Petitioner sued Respondents and soon after, Respondents changed their Speech Zone Policy. The lower court in the interim decided Flanigan’s which established nominal damage claims were moot if the government repealed a never enforced ordinance. The lower court held Petitioner’s claim was moot despite the fact Respondents did enforce their policy against Petitioner. Petitioner argues that the circuits are inconsistent on this issue but the Eleventh Circuit is an outlier, leaving these claims without any redress unless compensatory damages can be proven. Additionally, Petitioner argues the Court’s precedent shows the practical value nominal damages hold in redress of constitutional rights. Lastly, Petitioner urges the Court to reaffirm the role of nominal damages to prevent the lower court’s rule from spreading and causing a chilling effect.

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