Ninth Circuit Vacates Denial of Preliminary Injunction in Portland State University Professor Bruce Gilley’s Free Speech Case

The Institute for Free Speech brought the case on Gilley’s behalf after the University of Oregon's Division of Equity and Inclusion blocked him on Twitter for saying “all men are created equal”

March 8, 2024   •  By IFS Staff   •    •  
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Portland, OR — The Institute for Free Speech applauded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision today to vacate the denial of a preliminary injunction in Portland State University Professor Bruce Gilley’s free speech lawsuit against the University of Oregon for blocking him on X (formerly Twitter). A federal district court will now reconsider Professor Gilley’s case on remand.

In a memorandum disposition issued today, a majority of the three-judge panel held that Gilley’s request for prospective relief was not moot because the University of Oregon failed to show that the challenged conduct of blocking him on Twitter cannot reasonably be expected to recur. “We remand to the district court to reconsider whether Gilley has standing to seek pre-enforcement facial relief under the proper standard we address above, namely that standing is assessed at the time of the complaint,” explained the court.

The lawsuit arose after the then-Communication Manager for the University of Oregon’s Division of Equity and Inclusion blocked Gilley from the school’s @UOEquity Twitter account after he responded to a “racism interrupter” tweet by saying “all men are created equal.” Gilley sought nominal damages, a declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision also affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Gilley raised serious questions on the merits of his claims, but it rejected the court’s conclusion that Gilley failed to allege a risk of irreparable injury. The case is now remanded back to the district court for further proceedings.

“We’re pleased with this outcome, which recognizes that established doctrine on standing and irreparable harm applies in the developing area of social-media blocking by state actors,” said Institute for Free Speech Senior Attorney Del Kolde.

“The University of Oregon cannot avoid accountability for its unlawful blocking guidelines by simply unblocking Professor Gilley and claiming it won’t happen again,” Kolde added.

To read more about the case, Gilley v. Stabin, please see the full case page here.

About the Institute for Free Speech

The Institute for Free Speech promotes and defends the political speech rights to freely speak, assemble, publish, and petition the government guaranteed by the First Amendment.

IFS Staff

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