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School Seeks Fees from 'Bong Hits' Plaintiff

Remember Joseph Frederick? He is the former Juneau-Douglas High School student who made a federal case out of his suspension for displaying the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner during an off-campus, school-sanctioned event. His lawsuit made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled last June in Morse v. Frederick that the suspension did not violate the First Amendment.

That was not, however, the end of the story. Frederick went back to court, this time to state court alleging that the suspension violated his rights under Alaska law. That case was dismissed by the trial court as moot and is now on appeal. Meanwhile, the school district is going after Frederick to collect $5,000 in court fees, and Frederick's lawyer is countering that the move is retaliatory. 

Frederick was ordered to pay fees of $2,000 in the two cases, now about $5,000 with interest. The school wants to depose Frederick later this week regarding his assets. But Frederick's lawyer, Doug Mertz of the Alaska Civil Liberties Union, says the former student is in China teaching English and cannot afford to come home for the deposition, let alone pay the costs. Frederick does have a Hollywood option for his story, and Mertz says that "really galls" the school district, reports the Student Press Law Center.

"Since they know that Joe is broke, they know they probably will never collect anything. So the motive is almost certainly something else, likely retaliation, harassment, or perhaps to let them get a hold of the contract Joe has with a Hollywood studio for an option on his story -- something that really galls them -- so they can try to stop the film."

The school district's attorney, David Crosby, said he would be only too willing to defer the deposition, if only Frederick would answer questions he has put to him about his assets. "If a deposition is necessary," Crosby tells SPLC, "I am willing to do it by telephone and video camera if the plaintiff bears the additional cost of doing that."

See also: Juneau School Board Tries to Recover 'Bong Hits' Court Fees.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 28, 2008 at 05:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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