Individual Liberties

You were just hired as an intern for a recently confirmed United States District Court judge. Her first case involves a lawsuit brought by a college athlete whose scholarship was revoked, and he was dismissed from his state’s public university for his actions on the baseball field.

At the beginning of each game, players who are standing in front of the dugout are expected to stand and salute the flag as veterans from each branch of the military are honored. In protest of the current president and the ongoing war in Afghanistan, instead of saluting, the player knelt, pulled a cut-up flag from his bat bag, and draped it over his jersey. The player was immediately escorted from the field and permanently withdrawn from the public university under its Code of Conduct that requires all sports team players to salute the flag during opening ceremonies. The student athlete has sued the university and its president under 42 U.S.C § 1983 for a violation of his constitutional right of freedom of speech. Assume for purposes of this discussion that the state university’s actions constitute state action.

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After reading the case of Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), focus your discussion on the following:

  • Determine whether this student athlete’s First-Amendment right of free speech has been violated.
    • Explain your reasoning as to why or why not and how you would rule on his case as the judge.
    • Explain how the doctrine of stare decisis would factor into your official decision.
    • In a separate paragraph that is not a part of your official decision, discuss whether you personally agree with the majority opinion or with the dissenting justices in the Texas v. Johnson, case and explain why.


Oyez. (n.d.). Texas v. Johnson


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