Cases & Deals

Brooklyn College students file complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief against viewpoint discrimination

Clients Brooklyn College students

Jones Day New York represented Brooklyn College students regarding discrimination in the allocation of their student activity fees. Under Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Wis. v. Southworth, 529 U.S. 217 (2000), public colleges must allocate mandatory student activity fees to ideological student organizations in a strictly "viewpoint neutral" manner, which does not permit funding through referenda or the granting of special privileges to specific groups. At the request of students at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York ("CUNY"), Jones Day filed a complaint on their behalf for injunctive and declaratory relief against viewpoint discrimination in the allocation of their student activity fees. The students complaint is based on referendum funding and preferential exemption from fiscal controls for the New York Public Interest Research Group ("NYPIRG"), which receives more than $1.5 million per year from student fees in the State of New York. In the Fall of 2008, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

In July 2009, the District Court held extended argument on the motion and, after a recess, ruled from the bench. As a matter of first impression, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs' first claim for viewpoint discrimination on the ground that CUNY's refund procedure for the NYPIRG fee permitted the referendum process disallowed in other cases and concluded that CUNY's refund procedure was adequate to protect the First Amendment rights of dissenting students. The Court scheduled Plaintiffs' second claim for trial, holding that an issue of fact exists as to whether CUNY's exemption of NYPIRG from fiscal controls constitutes viewpoint discrimination.

Almengor, et al. v. CUNY, et al., No. 08-cv-6585-LAK