BREAKING NEWS ~ Supreme Court upholds law school access for military recruiters

BREAKING NEWS ~ Supreme Court upholds law school access for military recruiters

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] in a unanimous decision Monday upheld the Solomon Amendment [text; FAIR backgrounder], which requires educational institutions, including law schools, to allow military recruiters on campus in order to receive federal funds. In Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic Rights [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the court considered whether the federal law violated universities' First Amendment right of association.

The Solomon Amendment was first passed in 1994, in response to university law schools banning military recruiters because the Defense Department's exclusion of homosexuals violated their non-discrimination policies. FAIR [advocacy website], an association of 36 law schools and law faculties, sued US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to prevent enforcement of the federal law.

10:23 AM ET – The Court overturned a Third Circuit decision [PDF text] which held the Solomon Amendment to be unconstitutional. Writing for a unanimous court, Chief Justice John Roberts said:

In this case, FAIR has attempted to stretch a number of First Amendment doctrines well beyond the sort of activities these doctrines protect. The law schools object to having to treat military recruiters like other recruiters, but that regulation of conduct does not violate the First Amendment. To the extent that the Solomon Amendment incidentally affects expression, the law schools' effort to cast themselves as just like the schoolchildren in Barnette, the parade organizers in Hurley, and the Boy Scouts in Dale plainly overstates the expressive nature of their activity and the impact of the Solomon Amendment on it, while exaggerating the reach of our First Amendment precedents.

Because Congress could require law schools to provide equal access to military recruiters without violating the schools' freedoms of speech or association, the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the Solomon Amendment likely violates the First Amendment. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Third Circuit and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The Court also held that law schools must treat military recruiters as it would other recruiters who do not violate the nondiscrimination policies:

It is insufficient for a law school to treat the military as it treats all other employers who violate its nondiscrimination policy. Under the statute, military recruiters must be given the same access as recruiters who comply with the policy.

Read the Court's 8-0 opinion [PDF text]. Justice Alito did not participate in consideration of the case. AP has more.


 Video: Solomon Amendment panel discussion [Duke Law] | Audio: Solomon Amendment oral arguments