“Bong Hits 4 Jesus” Case is Not Over Yet … and It may be Coming to a Theater Near You
[Guest post by DRJ]
In June 2007, the Supreme Court decided the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case that Patterico analyzed here. The case involved a high school principal who confiscated a student’s “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner during a school-sanctioned event across from the school. The Supreme Court ruled the student’s banner was not protected by the First Amendment.
While several Justices gave different reasons for their decisions, all agreed there was no basis to hold the principal liable. Accordingly, the case was reversed and remanded to the trial court for disposition. Last month, Alaska U.S. District Judge John Sedwick dismissed the student’s claim for damages and declared the remaining issues in the lawsuit moot:
“Following a 5-4 decision from the Supreme Court favoring [Principal] Morse last session, the case was returned to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court returned the case to Sedwick, who previously ruled against [the student, Joseph] Frederick.
[School district spokesperson Susan] Christianson said Sedwick dismissed Frederick’s remaining claim seeking damages because students no longer subject to school authorities no longer have claim to “declaratory or injunctive relief.” She said the judge noted that Frederick failed to appeal the court’s prior ruling that state law immunized Morse and the school board from claims for damages.
That left only Frederick’s demand that the school district remove any references to discipline associated with his display of the banner, Christianson said. Since the school district already expunged the records, the judge dismissed Frederick’s claims as moot, she said.”
Case closed, right? Not according to Frederick’s attorney:
“However, Frederick’s attorney Doug Mertz, called the ruling a “nonissue,” predictable and expected. “We now have the opportunity to return to the Court of Appeals on the state issues,” he said.
Frederick, who lives in Idaho and teaches English in China, could not be reached for comment. He graduated in 2002.”
I’ll give attorney Mertz credit for positive thinking. Only an optimist could view a total loss in the Supreme Court and on remand as an “opportunity” to appeal on state issues, especially when plaintiff originally failed to appeal those issues.
What do you do when you lose at every level and on every issue? Offer to settle:
“Juneau School Board officials are reviewing a settlement offer in the ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ case. The undisclosed offer comes from attorney Doug Mertz, the attorney for the student behind the free-speech case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court in June.
If the School District rejects the offer, the case would return to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on state — rather than federal — constitutional issues, Mertz said. “It’s time to decide if the board is ready to put this behind them,” he said.
Mertz said he expects to file an appeal with the appellate court over a recent decision by a U.S. District Court judge who ruled the case moot. Today is the deadline to file an appeal.
School District attorney David Crosby declined to comment on the settlement offer. “It would be inappropriate to reply before talking to opposing counsel,” he said Tuesday as he left a closed-door executive board session.”
I think I can guess what the school district’s reply will be. So …
Case really closed, right? Not by a long shot. Stay tuned for “Bong Hits 4 Jesus – The Movie”:
“Bong Hits 4 Jesus. It’s back.
The infamous U.S. Supreme Court case is now to be made into a motion picture, according to entertainment magazine Variety. The magazine reports Paramount Pictures and MTV Films have inked a deal to produce a “fact-based drama” about Juneau high school student Joseph Frederick, who unfurled a banner reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” during a school-sanctioned watching of a 2002 Olympic torch parade.
The story quotes producer Michael Shamberg, of “Erin Brockovich” fame, as saying the heart of the story is the relationship between a father and son and that the tone is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” about a young man standing up for his rights.
Meanwhile, the Juneau Empire reports students and others can test their mettle against the limits of free speech rights in a new online game based on the case.”
The free speech game (and apparel!) is sponsored by Students for a Sensible Drug Policy whose goal is “to expose how the punitive policies [of the War on Drugs] hurt us and to formulate effective strategies for fighting back.”