10th Circuit denies rehearing in Kansas State adviser case

Panel had ruled that graduated students' claim was moot

KANSAS -- Two former Kansas State University students who sued their school over their newspaper adviser's removal will not get a rehearing from the appellate court that dismissed their case.

Kansas State removed Ron Johnson, adviser to the Collegian student newspaper, in 2004. Students and school officials demanded Johnson's removal after the Collegian failed to cover a minority-student event on campus. Johnson was removed based on a content analysis of the paper, conducted by a university administrator, which concluded that the Collegian's quality was sub-par.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that because plaintiffs Katie Lane and Sarah Rice, both former Collegian editors, had graduated, their claim that Johnson's removal violated the students' First Amendment rights was moot. The appellate court on Monday denied Lane and Rice's petition for a rehearing before the full court.

Several free-expression advocacy groups -- including the Student Press Law Center, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Associated Collegiate Press and College Media Advisers -- had joined in a friend-of-the-court brief urging the court to reconsider. The brief argued that the standard used by the panel would make it almost impossible for students to win free-expression cases against their schools because most students would graduate before their cases were completed.

Patrick Doran, the attorney representing Lane and Rice, said Tuesday he would wait until he received a copy of the court's order before the students and he decide whether to pursue the case any further.

"I think the options are limited," Doran said. The only alternative would be to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

For More Information:

Lane v. Simon, No. 05-3266, petition for rehearing en banc denied (10th Cir., Aug. 20, 2007)

Kansas State University, news, The Collegian