Home Culture Iowa State University Appeals Federal Judge’s Decision on NORML T-shirt Case

Iowa State University Appeals Federal Judge’s Decision on NORML T-shirt Case


It has only been a month – and barely a month, at that – since Federal Judge James Gritzner ruled in favor of the Iowa State University Chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) in a First Amendment Right’s case.

In case you missed out, you can catch up on all the drama here – but long story short, the university administrators decided at the last minute (and under the influence of donors and state officials) to ban the club’s t-shirts for depicting the school mascot and a marijuana leaf – even though the shirts had already been approved, printed, and worn multiple times.

After the shirts were banned the students of ISU’s NORML decided to fight back and they won. Now, a month later, the schools administrators are determined that they are not in the wrong. They have filed an appeal against the Supreme Court judge’s decision.

With the judge’s decision came a permanent injunction which blocks the school administrators from using trademark policies to prevent the group from depicting the school mascot and a marijuana leaf.

“ISU’s appeal to the Court of Appeals did not come as a surprise,” Corn-Revere said Thursday. “We look forward to the appellate court confirming Judge Gritzner’s well-reasoned holding that any reasonable public official would have understood that ISU’s politically motivated actions toward NORML ISU violated the First Amendment.”

Along with the injunction, the judge also denied the defense (administrators) qualified immunity – which means that they can be held personally liable for violating these students’ first amendment rights.

Normally, public officials would be allowed immunity from individual claims – except when the judge determines that a reasonable person would have been aware they were violating an individual’s rights – and Judge Gritzner came to determine that “a reasonable person in defendants’ position would understand that their conduct, aimed at silencing political controversy associated with the group’s political views, was unlawful under the circumstances.”

The students are already planning to move on to “phase two” where they would be suing the administrators for court costs and attorney fees. Either one of these things could be the reason for an appeal – though the fact that they might be opening their pockets to pay for their mistake is likely a big player there I would imagine.

If the appeal is approved, the judge’s ruling would be overturned and the students would be unable to sue for the attorney and court fees. However, from the sounds of it, everyone is still in agreement – these students First Amendment rights were violated and they deserve this win and hopefully they will recover the costs of the legal battle as well.