by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor, John Locke Foundation
UNC-Wilmington criminal justice professor Mike Adams won his case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Speak Up blog gives the details:
A lower court had said that Adams’ speeches and columns on matters of public concern were not protected by the First Amendment and instead constituted “official” speech as part of his job duties. The 4th Circuit disagreed, finding that Adams’ columns and speeches constituted protected, private speech and that university officials could be held personally liable for damages should Adams ultimately prevail in the case. …
In its opinion in Adams v. The Trustees of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, the 4th Circuit wrote that “no individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment. . . . Adams’ columns addressed topics such as academic freedom, civil rights, campus culture, sex, feminism, abortion, homosexuality, religion, and morality. Such topics plainly touched on issues of public, rather than private, concern. . . . The Defendants’ arguments to the contrary rest on the same fallacy engaged by the district court, and focus not on the nature of Adams’ speech at the time it was made, but on his inclusion of those materials in the ‘private’ context of his promotion application. Nothing in the district court’s analysis or the Defendants’ contentions rebut the conclusion that Adams’ speech was that of ‘a citizen speaking on a matter of public concern.’”
Adams himself explains the importance of the case for all professors in his column today.