A reader writes:

I thought you might be interested to know that under California law it doesn’t matter that Stanford is a private university since California holds private schools to the same free speech standards as the University of California. Stanford previously litigated this law and lost in Corry v Stanford.


I’d imagine that the Anscombe society has very good grounds to sue under the law.

I did not know that. Does anyone familiar with California law know if the Anscombe Society has a plausible Leonard Law claim against Stanford for unreasonably burdening the exercise of First Amendment rights on its campus? Here is the text of the Leonard Law:

94367. (a) No private postsecondary educational institution shall make or enforce a rule subjecting a student to disciplinary sanctions solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside the campus or facility of a private
postsecondary institution, is protected from governmental restriction by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 2 of Article I of the California Constitution.

(b) A student enrolled in a private postsecondary institution at the time that the institution has made or enforced any rule in violation of subdivision (a) may commence a civil action to obtain appropriate injunctive and declaratory relief as determined by the court. Upon motion, a court may award attorney’s fees to a prevailing plaintiff in a civil action pursuant to this section.

(c) This section does not apply to a private postsecondary educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization, to the extent that the application of this section
would not be consistent with the religious tenets of the organization.

(d) This section does not authorize the prior restraint of student speech.

(e) This section does not prohibit the imposition of discipline for harassment, threats, or intimidation, unless constitutionally protected.

(f) This section does not prohibit an institution from adopting rules and regulations that are designed to prevent hate violence, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 4 of Chapter 1363 of the Statutes of 1992, from being directed at students in a manner that denies them their full participation in the educational process, so long as the rules and regulations conform to standards established by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 2 of Article I of the California Constitution for citizens generally.

It’s hard to see how forcing a student group to pay $5,600 for its own security is, strictly speaking, a case of prior restraint or a disciplinary sanction. But it is plainly an attempt to restrain the exercise of free speech, or punish it, by raising the bar extraordinarily high for a student group to do so — especially because it seems to me that any university has an obligation to protect its students from harassment and intimidation.

I’m uncomfortable with the Leonard Law, because it restricts the legal right of private institutions to govern themselves. But it’s the law in California. If the Anscombe Society has a plausible claim against Stanford under its provisions, I hope they will exercise it, good and hard.