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Supreme Court hears arguments in student free speech, RICO right-of-way cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Monday in Morse v. Frederick [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-278 [docket], where the court must decide whether a student's First Amendment [text] rights had been violated when a principal suspended him after he displayed a banner with the message "Bong hits 4 Jesus" during a televised parade on a school day. The principal's attorney argued that the administrator acted reasonably and in line with the district's anti-drug policies, arguing that a decision against them would leave schools unable to stop students from promoting the use of drugs. Opposing counsel argued that a holding in favor of the principal will unreasonably restrict students' rights of free speech. The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] held [opinion, PDF] in March 2006 that because the principal could not reasonably predict "material interference with school activities" as a result of the speech, he was not permitted to restrict the speech. Justice Breyer said during argument that although he is concerned about encouraging students to test the limits of free speech, a ruling against the student could unduly limit those rights. AP has more.

The court also heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] in the case of Wilkie v. Robbins [Duke Law case backgrounder; merits brief], 06-219 [docket], in which the court will consider whether officials of the Bureau of Land Management [official website] can be held liable under under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [text] and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics [opinion, text] for trying to gain a reciprocal right-of-way through private property connected with public lands. The US Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] held that the government officials' alleged wrongful use of lawful authority to procure a right-of-way runs counter to established law.

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