Thursday, November 14, 2013

Christian Legal Society Chapter of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law v. Martinez case brief

Christian Legal Society Chapter of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law v. Martinez case brief summary
130 S.Ct. 2971 (2010)

Certiorari was granted to decide whether to affirm or reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's holding that respondent public law school could, without violating the Firstand Fourteenth Amendments, condition its official recognition of petitioner student Christian group--and use of school funds and facilities--on the group's agreement to open eligibility for membership and leadership to all students.

The group argued that an accept-all-comers policy (AACP) impaired its First Amendmentrights to free speech, expressive association, and free exercise of religion, as it had to accept members who did not share its religious and sexual orientation beliefs or relinquish the advantages of recognition.

  • AACP compliance was a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral condition on access to the student-organization forum. 
  • The group's exclusionary expressive activity was protected, but it had no constitutional right to state subvention of its selectivity. 
  • Public-forum precedents supplied the appropriate framework for the speech and association rights claims, as those rights were closely linked. 
  • The school could reasonably decide that the educational experience was best promoted by the AACP. 
  • The AACP ensured no student was funding a group that would reject her as a member. 
  • The school's desire to redress the perceived harms of exclusionary membership policies was an adequate explanation over and above mere disagreement with any group's beliefs. 
  • In seeking an exemption from the school's AACP, the group sought preferential, not equal, treatment; a Free Exercise of Religion Clause claim failed.

The Ninth Circuit's judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded to address the group's pretext argument that was not addressed below. 5-4 Decision; 2 Concurrences; 1 Dissent.

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