Justice Department backs student in free speech lawsuit

The Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in support of Pierce student Kevin Shaw, who sued the college last year, stating that the Free Speech Area was too small and restrictive.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement explaining the Justice Department’s interest, stating that the DOJ strives to protect Freedom of Speech on college campuses.  

“University officials and faculty must defend free expression boldly and unequivocally. Last month, I promised a recommitment to free speech on campus and to ensuring First Amendment rights. The Justice Department continues to do its part in defending free speech, protecting students’ free expression, and enforcing federal law,” Sessions said in a statement.  

Last year, Shaw was confronted by Pierce administration as he handed out Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution on the Mall, seeking to recruit students for Young Americans for Liberty, a political organization with chapters on college campuses across the United States.

The free speech zone is a 616 square-foot area located on the Mall, and composes about .003 percent of a 426-acre campus.

Shaw was told that he could not distribute literature outside of the Free Speech Area, and to distribute within the area he would have to fill out a permit.

A hearing for Shaw v. Burke is scheduled for Nov. 14 at the California Central District Court to determine whether the case will go to trial.

Watch a video of students’ reaction to the case and the issue of the Free Speech Zone by clicking here.

***This story has been updated to include a video of students’ reaction to the issue of the Free Speech Zone***