1. In March of 2011, a former Jewish student at UC Berkeley has filed a lawsuit against the university contending it violated her civil rights when it did not protect her against attacks from a pro-Palestinian student.
Jessica Felber (image: courtesy of http://www.stepupforisrael.com/about-us/staff/ )
Jessica Felber filed the lawsuit in the Northern District Court on March 4, almost one year to the day Husam Zakharia, the head of Berkeley’s Students for Justice in Palestine, allegedly rammed her with a shopping cart filled with toys, according to the suit.
Felber, then 20, was a member of the pro-Israel Tikvah group, which had often clashed on campus with Students for Justice in Palestine. Felber was holding a sign stating “Israel Wants Peace,” on March 5, 2010 as part of an event for Israel Peace Week. The rally had been called to counteract rallies held on behalf of Israel Apartheid Week.
2. A second amended complaint has been filed in a lawsuit alleging that the University of California has failed to provide a safe environment for Jewish students.
Filed Jan. 6 by UC Berkeley alumna Jessica Felber and current student Brian Maissy, the complaint will be heard in court March 15. It alleges that the UC violated Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution in 2011 by authorizing the construction of a mock “checkpoint” at UC Berkeley during an annual demonstration called Apartheid Week.
Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs that receive federal financial assistance.
3. Munger, Tolles & Olson successfully defended the University of California against a lawsuit alleging that an anti-Semitic environment had been created by protests on the UC Berkeley campus against Israeli policies. The suit, which was filed by two Jewish students, claimed UC Berkeley turned a blind eye to alleged intimidation by anti-Israel protestors and thereby fostered a climate of anti-Semitism. U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg disagreed and dismissed the lawsuit on December 22, 2011. Judge Seeborg emphasized that “much of the alleged harassment, even if [it occurred], constituted protected political speech that UC Berkeley had no obligation to stop.”
Judge Seeborg also rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that UC Berkeley officials were deliberately indifferent to the threats that the plaintiffs allegedly faced. The judge highlighted that campus police have arrested disruptive protesters and that UC Berkeley’s administration “has engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the opposing parties in an attempt to ensure that the rights of all persons are respected, and to minimize the potential for violence.”
Christopher Patti, chief campus counsel at UC Berkeley, said the ruling “reaffirmed the fact that the university has been working hard to resolve conflicts between campus groups with opposing points of view.”
Munger Tolles attorneys Michelle Friedland, Bradley S. Phillips and Kathryn A. Eidmann represented UC in this matter.
CA Judge Deems Case in Which Jewish Woman Was Rammed with Shopping Cart ‘Free Speech’
Back in June of 2010 a leader of a pro-Palestinian student group at University of Berkeley allegedly rammed a Jewish woman with a shopping cart as she staged a counter-protest to an anti-Israel “Apartheid Week” rally conducted by the Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine. The counter-protest was dubbed “Israel Wants Peace Week.”
Now, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg has deemed that the Muslim students who harassed Jessica Felber and other Jewish students were simply engaging in protected political speech.
The Greeley Gazette reports:
On Thursday U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said the harassment, even if true, constituted protected political speech and dismissed the case against the university.
Seeborg said the university did not have any obligation to intervene in any dispute where a private individual on campus was allegedly interfering with another’s constitutional rights. He instead appeared to indicate that the incident was an outcome of Felber’s counter protest.
Felber and another Jewish student claimed the University did not do enough to prevent the harassment which included the Muslim group conducting checkpoints around the campus. Students were asked if they were Jewish while passing the checkpoints.
“The incident in which Felber was assaulted with a shopping cart, for example, did not occur in the context of her educational pursuit,” Seeborg stated. “Rather, that event occurred when she, as one person attempting to exercise free speech rights in a public forum, was allegedly attacked by another person who likewise was participating in a public protest in a public forum.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Seeborg said that much of the conduct involved “pure political speech” that is constitutionally protected even if it “contained language that plaintiffs believe was inflammatory, offensive or untrue.”
Seeborg said some courts have allowed public colleges to outlaw harassing speech and conduct that interferes with students’ rights, but schools have no legal duty to do so. The Muslim organizations receive campus funding on the same basis as other groups, the judge said, and any attempt to withdraw it would raise “serious First Amendment issues.”
The Huffington Post adds:
The suit also alleged this attack was part of a pattern of behavior during Apartheid Week, during which Jewish students were spit on and Israel’s government was equated to that of Nazi Germany.
While the university has previously disciplined some of the event’s participants and even had Husam Zakharia, the student who hit Felber with the shopping cart, arrested in connection with the incident, Felber (who graduated last year) has accused university President Mark Yudof, who is Jewish, of allowing an anti-Semitic environment to flourish on campus.
“SJP and Zakharia have been involved in other incidents on campus to incite violence against and intimidate Jewish and other students,” stated the lawsuit. “Defendants knew of this history of incitement and intimidation yet took no reasonable step to adequately control Zakharia or other student members of the SPJ.”
Jihad Watch founder Robert Spencer said the judge’s decision affirms that Muslims assaulting Jewish students is now protected speech.
“This is an outrageous decision. The Muslim students were trying to silence the freedom of speech of the Jewish students. The judge says this is a ruling in favor of free speech, but actually the freedom of speech was being infringed and the judge is saying that is ok to protect the freedom of speech of the Muslim students. Don’t the Jewish students have freedom of speech as well?”