Barnes v. Zaccari

Thomas Barnes was a student at Valdosta State University who was expelled in 2007 by the school’s president without any warning or a chance to contest the decision. Barnes had written a letter to the editor in the school’s student newspaper protesting a new parking garage that he believed to be environmentally unsound. He also posted about the parking garage, which Zaccari championed, on Facebook. Zaccari decided to “administratively withdraw” Barnes, a decision that functioned as an expulsion.

Barnes appealed the expulsion and was ultimately reinstated, but not before he missed a semester’s worth of class. He sued Zaccari in January 2008, arguing that his First Amendment and Due Process rights were violated. The District Court agreed, and the school appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

In 2011, the SPLC filed a brief in support of Barnes. Barnes was engaged in a constitutionally protected activity. Before he can be dismissed for having engaged in that activity, he has a right to a full and fair hearing.