University of Florida Denies Preliminary Injunction for Students for Justice in Palestine

In an opinion Chief Judge Mark Walker (N.D. Fla.) in Students for Justice in Palestine at Univ. of Florida v. Rodrigues implies that the Plaintiff violates the First Amendment rights, the court held that plaintiff lacked standing, because it hadn’t adequately alleged that its speech was actually abridged by the Chancellor’s memorandum given the University of Florida’s decision not to deactivate the group. Both sides agree that ultimately the UF Board of Trustees (BOT) is responsible for directly regulating registered student organizations. As a general legal principle, Plaintiff is correct [at least if it can show that its expression was therefore chilled or that it’s facing “a credible threat of prosecution.” However, the record is devoid of any evidence that Plaintiff’s members or prospective members have self-censored. This Court does not fault Plaintiff’s members for feeling anxious about the fact that the Governor, arguably the most powerful man in Florida, has repeatedly disparaged Plaintiff’s members as “terrorists” and repeated the falsehood that their organization has been “deactivated.” Plaintiff’s suggestion that because someone, even someone cloaked with great power, makes coercive statements that cause college students to fear some hypothetical future harm means they must have standing stretches the injury-in-fact requirement beyond the boundaries that case law has established for standing in First Amendment pre-enforcement challenges.