Jury Finds That Former Valdosta State University President Violated Constitution, Will Pay $50K In Damages

Former Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari was found liable for $50,000 in damages for administratively withdrawing student Hayden Barnes back in 2007.  Zaccari’s rationale behind kicking Barnes out of the university was that Barnes was a “clear and present danger” due to a collage the student posted on his (Barnes’) personal Facebook page.

So, this occurred in 2007, and my calendar reads 2013.  Why did it take so long for a ruling?  Robert Shibley over at CollegeInsurrection has some insight:

Why did it take so long for justice to be served? The case was more complicated than many, as the court first had to determine that a state college administrator (in this case, Zaccari) was not entitled to the defense of “qualified immunity” for his actions because he should have known they were unlawful when he was doing them. Usually, public college administrators who blatantly violate the Constitution and due process rights get off scot-free even when they lose, as their employers (read: the taxpayers) get stuck with the bill for their transgressions. The thin reed of reason on which this “qualified immunity” rests is that administrators supposedly didn’t know that their actions were unconstitutional when they took them. (Yes, that’s pretty farfetched in most of the case FIRE sees, but courts tend to buy it.)

Zaccari appealed this finding, and it went all the way to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, where Zaccari lost. When the appeals were finished and the case came before a jury, the jig was up: Zaccari personally owes Barnes $50,000—and the court has not even assessed attorneys’ fees yet.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has more details over on their website if you feel so inclined.  Congrats to Mr. Barnes on his free speech win.

H/T to Instapundit