DWT is pleased to represent the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in its "Stand Up for Speech" initiative, which is bringing lawsuits against public colleges and universities across the country to challenge policies and actions inconsistent with the First Amendment rights of students, and in some cases, faculty as well.

DWT's "Stand Up for Speech" Team

Robert Corn-Revere


Ronald G. London


Lisa B. Zycherman


DWT’s team (Bob Corn-Revere, Ronnie London, and Lisa Zycherman) has brought 12 cases in two years, eight so far achieving favorable settlements that reformed the offending policies and provided remuneration to the students. FIRE and DWT will continue to bring new cases until we reinforce the message, first articulated by the Supreme Court more than four decades ago, that "state colleges and universities are not enclaves immune from the sweep of the First Amendment."

Van Tuinen v. Modesto Community College
Represented student in civil rights lawsuit against community college district that prevented him from handing out copies of U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day, resulting in settlement under which the district agreed to revise its policies to allow free speech in open areas across campus and agreed to pay plaintiff $50,000. (E.D. Cal. 2014)
Read more on FIRE's website. 

Burch v. University System of Hawaii
Represented students in civil rights lawsuit claiming denial of their right to hand out literature, the unconstitutionality of the university’s "free speech zone," and the failure of university officials to adequately train administrators on the rights of college students. Resulted in settlement under which the entire University of Hawaii system agreed to revise its policies to allow free speech in open areas across all campuses and to pay plaintiffs $50,000. (D. Haw. 2014)
Read more on FIRE's website. 

Gerlich v. Leath
Representing Iowa State University student members of the university chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML ISU) challenging the University adoption and enforcement of policies that unconstitutionally restrict the group’s ability to engage in political advocacy through license of university trademarks for t-shirts and other apparel. Motion for summary judgment partially granted. Gerlich v. Leath, 152 F.Supp.3d 1152 (S.D. Iowa Jan. 22, 2016), aff’d (8th Cir. Feb. 13, 2017) (S.D. Iowa, Ongoing)
Read more on FIRE's website. 

Sinapi-Riddle v. Citrus Community College District
Represented student who was threatened with removal from campus for asking a fellow student to sign a petition outside the College's restrictive "free speech area." Obtained $110,000 settlement under which College agreed to revise its policies to permit free expression in all open areas of campus and to adopt a definition of harassment that complies with the First Amendment. (C.D. Cal. 2014)
Read more on FIRE's website.

Beverly v. Watson
Representing two professors in action seeking relief from unconstitutional speech policies at Chicago State University and an order enjoining administrators from continuing efforts to shut down the professors’ blog, which is often critical of the University’s administration. Motion to dismiss denied, Beverly v. Watson, 78 F.Supp.3d 717 (N.D. Ill. 2015) (N.D. Ill., Ongoing)
Read more on FIRE's website.

Smith v. McDavis
Ohio University settled with student after he and fellow student group members were ordered by administrators not to wear a t-shirt advertising their student defense service featuring the phrase "We get you off for free." In settlement, University adopted new policies to adopt a definition of harassment that complies with the First Amendment and paid student $32,000. (S.D Ohio 2015)
Read more on FIRE's website.

Kalamazoo Peace Center v. Dunn
Western Michigan University settled with non-profit student organization and its two co-directors in civil rights action against university administrators who demanded that the organization pay a hefty and arbitrary security fee before hosting rapper and social activist at annual event.  In settlement, University adopted new policies to comply with the First Amendment and pay $35,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees (W.D. Mich. 2015)
Read more on FIRE's website.

Jergins v. Williams
Representing students at Dixie State University in First Amendment challenge to unconstitutional enforcement of a "free speech zone" and to policies that impose prior restraints on students’ speech. Students further allege that the university refused to approve promotional flyers produced by the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) student group that featured images negatively portraying Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and Che Guevara because school policy does not permit students to "disparage" or "mock[] individuals." University agreed to revise restrictive speech policies and pay $50,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees. (D. Utah 2015)
Read more on FIRE's website.

Tomas v. Coley
Representing student at California Polytechnic State University, Pomona who was stopped by campus police from handing out flyers without a "permit" outside the campus "free speech zone." University agreed to settlement that obligated it to revise restrictive speech codes challenged in the lawsuit and pay $35,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees. (C.D. Cal. 2015)
Read more on FIRE's website.

Sanders v. Guzman
Representing Blinn College student who was instructed by university official that she and her friends would need "special permission" to display political signs on campus and to remain within the college’s "free speech zone" if she wanted to demonstrate. As part of the settlement agreement, Blinn College agreed to revise restrictive policies targeted in the lawsuit to comply with the First Amendment.  Blinn also agreed to pay student Nicole Sanders $50,000 for damages and attorney’s fees.  (W.D. Tex. 2016)
Read more on FIRE's website.

Buchanan v. Alexander
Representing professor in civil rights action to strike down unconstitutional enforcement of Louisiana State University sexual harassment policy pursuant to which she was fired for occasional use of profanity. The challenged policy mirrors "blueprint" language proposed by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. Professor also seeks reinstatement to her position as a tenured professor. (M.D. La. Ongoing)
Read more on FIRE's website.

Abbott v. Pastides
Representing a student and two student groups in an action challenging a number of University of South Carolina policies, including a free speech zone policy that restricts student speech to a few areas of campus and requires that students register in advance before they can exercise their First Amendment rights. The lawsuit also challenges USC’s Student Non-Discrimination and Non-Harassment Policy, a vague and overbroad restriction that prohibits "unwelcome" speech and "suggestive or insulting gestures or sounds." (D.S.C. Ongoing). 
Read more on FIRE’s website.

Read about other work we’ve done in cooperation with FIRE: