Attorney General Jeff Sessions backs LP activist in free-speech case

Libertarian Party member Kevin Shaw handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. (Photos courtesy of Dawn Bowery/FIRE.)

On Oct. 24, Libertarian activist Kevin Shaw garnered the support of conservative U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his federal lawsuit against Pierce College over alleged violations of Shaw’s freedom of speech on campus.

Sessions’s issuing of a statement of interest in the case was covered that day by KPCC-FM Southern California Public Radio. From the article at the station’s website:

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement of interest in support of the lawsuit filed by Pierce College student Kevin Shaw in March. The suit alleges that administrators stopped Shaw from handing out Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution. Shaw said he was told he could only do so in a designated free-speech area, with permission, Monday through Friday from 9 A.M. to 7 P.M.

The federal judge overseeing Shaw’s lawsuit is scheduled, next month, to hear college administrators’ request to dismiss the case.

Shaw’s lawyer welcomed Sessions’s intervention.

“…It’s an important case,” said Shaw’s lawyer Arthur Willner. Colleges across the country, Willner said, are violating “students’ First Amendment rights by…establishing these minuscule free-speech zones and establishing onerous procedures that students have to go through in order to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech.”

Shaw’s case is one of many this year in which mostly conservative students or activists — Shaw is a Libertarian Party activist — have challenged colleges’ free-speech rules by inviting controversial speakers to campus or taking actions challenging policies.

Sessions is a staunch conservative, but that doesn’t make Shaw’s lawsuit politically partisan, Willner said.

“Whether Kevin was passing out Spanish language editions of the Constitution or anything else is really immaterial here. What’s important is that he was exercising his right to free speech, whether he was espousing conservative views, or Libertarian views, or liberal views, or far left views, really doesn’t matter,” Willner said.


Read the coverage at 89.3 KPCC’s website.
Read the 21-page statement by the attorney general.


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