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Federal court issues preliminary injunction to reinstate newspaper adviser

July 27, 2006

NEW JERSEY -- A federal district court issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday that will reinstate a student newspaper adviser who was removed for what students claim was retaliation for stories they printed.

Three editors at the Ocean County College student newspaper, the Viking News, filed a lawsuit in May against college President Jon Larson and several other administrators after the school removed longtime newspaper adviser Karen Bosley. The lawsuit alleges that Bosley's removal was the result of retaliation for several stories the newspaper wrote critical of the school's administration. The preliminary injunction is a decision that will allow Bosley to continue to advise the Viking News while the lawsuit is underway. Bosley has filed a similar separate lawsuit.

In his opinion, Judge Stanley R. Chesler wrote that the school's decision to remove Bosley had violated the students' First Amendment rights.

Chesler wrote that ''granting such an injunction is an extraordinary measure that should only be done in limited circumstances,'' but that in this case, ''it is clear that such a retaliatory removal would, nonetheless, have an impermissibly chilling effect on the paper's student editors' freedom of expression in future issues of the paper, and inflict irreparable harm on the Plaintiffs.''

Bosley said that her lawyer had advised her not to comment, but she said she is ''very happy about the decision.''

The court denied preliminary injunctions on four other claims the students made. Among other things, the students had also asked that the court bar one of the defendants, Director of Student Media Joseph Adellizi, from accessing the newspaper office and ''exercising prior review on the paper's articles and editorials.'' The court said that there was not enough evidence that Adellizi had attempted such control.

But Alberto Morales, the news and photography editor of the Viking News and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the students have for now achieved their main objective.

''Some of the things we didn't get, but the main thing was to get our adviser back,'' he said. ''We're extremely happy, all of us. It's really, really great.''

And although the case is not finished yet, Morales said he thinks the preliminary injunction is a good sign for student press rights in general, in light of the Hosty v. Carter decision in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case, student journalists at Governors State University in Illinois sued their school, but the court ruled in June 2005 that administrators could have some control over student newspapers in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. The Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.

"With what happened with the Hosty case, and how after Hosty ... a lot of people have tried to take advantage of the Hosty decision even though it doesn't apply to their states, I'm just happy that a federal court in New Jersey said otherwise,'' Morales said. ''It's good that they saw something wrong, and that a little piece of the student press was defended. But there's still more, we're not done yet.''

Angelo Stio, an attorney with Pepper Hamilton LLP who is representing the students in the case, also said he is pleased with the decision.

''We're happy with the decision, our clients are happy with the decision, and we look forward to having the opportunity to prove to the court that this preliminary injunction should be made into a permanent injunction,'' Stio said.

Tara Kelly, Ocean County College public relations director and one of the defendants in the lawsuit, did not return calls for comment.

--by Whitney McFerron, SPLC staff writer

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