Brown v. Li

308 F.3d 939 (2002)

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Brown v. Li

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
308 F.3d 939 (2002)

Facts

Christopher Brown (plaintiff) was a graduate student at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) (defendant), a state-funded university. Brown was required to write a thesis subject to approval by Brown’s thesis committee to earn a master’s degree. The thesis was subject to the requirements detailed in the UCSB’s Graduate Student’s Handbook, allowing students to include an optional “Acknowledgments” section at the end of the thesis. According to the handbook, the thesis aimed to educate students on properly presenting research results. In the spring of 1999, Brown submitted his thesis for approval without an acknowledgments section. The thesis committee approved Brown’s thesis. After receiving approval, Brown added a two-page “Disacknowledgments” section, which included a profanity-laced section that named several state and university officials that Brown believed hindered his graduate studies. Brown attempted to file his thesis with the Disacknowledgments section in the university library, as was required to graduate. The Dean of the Graduate School, Charles Li (defendant), was alerted to the addition of the Disacknowledgments section and referred the thesis back to the thesis committee. The thesis committee refused to approve Brown’s thesis containing the Disacknowledgments section. Brown appealed this decision through various university channels with no luck. In May of 2000, UCSB finally agreed to provide Brown with a degree based on the original approved version of his thesis. Brown filed a lawsuit alleging that his First Amendment rights had been violated. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Brown appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Graber, J.)

Concurrence (Ferguson, J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Reinhardt, J.)

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