Hi 92 / Lo 76
|Volume 68, Issue 1, Monday,
August 26, 2002
UH drops fight against Pro-Life Cougars' display
By Ken Fountain
Often, UH officials find themselves walking through the halls of Houston's courts.
This summer was no exception, as action was taken in a number of lawsuits against the University.
A case that could have national implications involves a UH organization,
Pro-Life Cougars, that sued the University for attempting to prevent it
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New
Orleans refused Tuesday to hear the University's appeal of a Houston
Pro-Life Cougars and its chairwoman, political science senior Jeanne
Sherree Tullos, filed suit in January, alleging violation of the group's
The decision was based on the "Disruption of University Operations and
Events" policy in the 2001-2002 UH Student Handbook, which
Tullos and another group, the Free Speech Coalition, brought the display
to Butler Plaza, for three days in March 2001, inspiring heated debate
The display is owned by Justice For All, a Wichita, Kan.-based organization that brings it to college campuses around the nation.
UH officials said that that group had been allowed to bring the display to Butler Plaza because of an administrative error.
On June 13, Tullos and Munson testified in an evidentiary hearing in
the Houston courtroom of U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. Munson
He further testified that the freedom of expression policy had been
under review since Spring 2001, before the Justice For All exhibit arrived.
It reiterates the four approved locations for expressive activities, excluding Butler Plaza.
In a June 21 written ruling, Werlein said UH had denied Pro-Life Cougars its constitutional rights.
"The unbridled discretion conferred by the University's policy upon
its decisionmaker, the Dean of Students, to impose a prior restraint on
He granted a preliminary injunction restraining the University from
using the old policy to prevent Pro-Life Cougars from bringing the display
The University filed a brief in July arguing that the revised policy
mooted the group's previous challenge and asked Werlein to dissolve the
But on August 9, Werlein disagreed, writing that because the University
was still defending the old policy and were relying on it to prevent
Following the panel's refusal to hear UH's appeal, UH spokesperson Amanda
Siigfried said last week that the University would abide by
Tullos confirmed that the group has submitted a request to bring a smaller
(12-foot by 12-foot) version of the display to Butler Plaza to be used
The case, which could set a new precedent in the constitutionality of so-called "free speech zones," is scheduled for an April trial.
The University was more successful in two lawsuits brought by former-UH
President and UH System Chancellor Glenn Goerke and former-UH
The men, who are now tenured professors in the education department
at UH-Clear Lake, filed separate but substantially similar lawsuits in
The University argued that under the legal principle of "sovereign immunity,"
which gives governmental agencies a general immunity from suit,
The University argued that a 1985 amendment to the Texas Education Code
effectively withdrew legislative consent and precluded the men's
In February, Harris County District Judge George C. Hanks Jr. agreed with the University's reasoning and dismissed Freedman's lawsuit.
Harris County District Judge Joseph J. Halbach, Jr. similarly dismissed Goerke's claims in April.
However, the two men's lawyer, Robert Jones, has combined their claims in an appeal to the First District of Texas Court of Appeals in Houston.
Jones argues that the two trial judges erred in their reasoning, that
the language of the Texas Education Code grants permission to sue the
The appeal is ongoing.
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