News and Commentary

Judge Gives Green Light To YAF’s Suit Against UC Berkeley Over Shapiro’s Event

On Wednesday, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled to allow Young America’s Foundation’s First Amendment lawsuit against the University of California, Berkeley, to move forward.

UC Berkeley will have to answer, at trial, for its unconstitutional application of the Major Events policy with respect to the lecture of Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro last September. Judge Maxine Chesney permitted YAF to proceed with its First Amendment (Freedom of Expression) and Fourteenth Amendment (Equal Protection) claims. YAF had compared the university’s treatment of Shapiro to its treatment of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; Chesney said the case YAF made was persuasive, including its criticism of Berkeley’s use of security fees to suppress conservative speech.

Young America’s Foundation spokesman Spencer Brown stated:

Young America’s Foundation looks forward to moving on to the merits of this case and vigorously defending our claims at trial. This ruling allowing YAF’s critical First Amendment case to move forward is a win for conservatives and free speech, and it shows that Judge Chesney believes there is significant evidence of Berkeley’s work to suppress conservative speech. Conservative students will finally have their day in court, and we are confident that the outcome of this case will be the restoration of students’ First Amendment rights at the University of California, Berkeley.

Roughly two months before Shapiro’s speech, the university blocked him from speaking, asserting they were “unable to identify an available campus venue.” One month later, UC Berkeley’s college Republicans had to agree to pay $15,738 for what the school called “basic security costs” — costs that would be paid by Young America’s Foundation.

The university finally found a venue; Shapiro eventually spoke at Zellerbach Hall, as the city of Berkeley shelled out an estimated $600,000 for security. The hall has a capacity seating of 1,984 people, but the university closed off the upper floor because of fear protesters might rip out chairs and hurl them at the audience below. As The Daily Caller reported, “According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, the maximum audience size was decreased because the balcony overlooking Zellerbach’s main floor will be closed due to safety concerns. Anything thrown from the balcony could cause injuries to people below, and confrontations could result in ‘significant injury’ if anyone falls over the railing, Mogulof wrote in an email.”