Houston Community College System v. Wilson

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: April 26, 2021
  • Case #: No. 20-804
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit, 955 F.3d 490 (2020)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause limits a local government’s censure power.

Respondent was censured by Petitioner due to the threat his speech posed to Petitioner’s accreditation. Respondent argued that the First Amendment Free Speech Clause limits the local government’s censure power. Petitioner moved to dismiss, and the district court granted the motion, reasoning that the censure did not cause an "actual injury" to Respondent’s First Amendment right of Free Speech. The Fifth Circuit reversed and held that “a reprimand against an elected official for speech addressing a matter of public concern is an actionable First Amendment Claim under § 1983.” Because censure is an important tool for self-governance by public officials, the Fifth Circuit’s decision and reasoning creates a conflict. The Fifth Circuit’s rule disregards three lines of the Supreme Court’s precedent by failing to implement the “presumption of constitutionality," incorrectly omitting an important form of government speech, and holding that these officials suffered an injury when they are criticized, therefore, impeding the democracy of the country.



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