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Speech First v. Cartwright

Description:  Speech First, an organization that advocates for students’ free speech rights on campus, is challenging the University of Central Florida’s policies that unconstitutionally restrict students’ First Amendment rights.


University of Central Florida
Friday, Apr 22, 2022

The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Vice President of Appellate Advocacy and Senior Counsel John Bursch regarding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit’s decision issued Thursday in Speech First v. Cartwright to uphold students’ First Amendment rights at the University of Central Florida:

“The right to speak freely without the government telling you what you can and cannot say is one of the greatest privileges and blessings that we enjoy as Americans. We are pleased the 11th Circuit continues to protect this fundamental right and has affirmed freedom for all students at the University of Central Florida. Universities ought to encourage a diverse set of viewpoints and perspectives, not stifle those opinions with which they disagree. As the 11th Circuit rightly pointed out, some regulations that appear well-meaning—like the university’s anti-harassment, anti-discrimination policy in question—can be so vague and broadly applied, that students simply wishing to share their religious or ideological views are chilled into silence. That is a violation of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment for every American.”

As the court stated in its opinion, “Given the discriminatory-harassment policy’s astonishing breath—and slipperiness—we think it clear that a reasonable student could fear that his speech would get him crossways with the University, and that he’d be better off just keeping his mouth shut.… It is imperative that colleges and universities toe the constitutional line when monitoring, supervising, and regulating student expression. Despite what we presume to be the very best of intentions, it seems to us substantially likely that the University of Central Florida crossed that line here.”

ADF attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the 11th Circuit supporting Speech First, a voluntary member organization that itself exists to advocate for students’ free-speech rights.

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.

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ABOUT John Bursch

John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom. Bursch has argued 12 U.S. Supreme Court cases and more than 30 state supreme court cases since 2011, and a recent study concluded that among all frequent Supreme Court advocates who did not work for the federal government, he had the 3rd highest success rate for persuading justices to adopt his legal position. Bursch served as solicitor general for the state of Michigan from 2011-2013. He has argued multiple Michigan Supreme Court cases in eight of the last ten terms and has successfully litigated hundreds of matters nationwide, including six with at least $1 billion at stake. As part of his private firm, Bursch Law PLLC, he has represented Fortune 500 companies, foreign and domestic governments, top public officials, and industry associations in high-profile cases, primarily on appeal. He received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1997 from the University of Minnesota Law School and is admitted to practice in numerous federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.