Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, took a legal victory Wednesday after a federal judge refused to block his demand to oust pro-Palestinian student groups from Florida universities.
Two chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, hailing from the University of Florida and the University of South Florida, had asked a federal court to stop DeSantis from kicking them off campus after the governor declared that he would do so over the groups’ support for Hamas terrorists who invaded Israel on Oct. 7, Politico reported Thursday.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker refused the request of Students for Justice in Palestine to block DeSantis from taking measures to punish them and dismissed the governor as the defendant in the lawsuits.
Walker ruled that although the pro-Palestinian groups may perceive DeSantis’ arguments against them as offensive, the university has not yet fulfilled his request to kick them off campus and therefore the “threatened deactivation remains merely speculative,” Politico reported. The judge also argued that, even with threats against them, the two chapters’ speech had not “reasonably chilled—or chilled at all—for fear of punishment.”
The lawsuits by the two campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine argued that DeSantis’ push to get them off campus through a “deactivation order” violated their right to free speech, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented them. The chapters had asked the court to quash DeSantis’ order through a preliminary injunction.
“This court does not fault [the students] for feeling anxious about the fact that the governor—arguably the most powerful man in Florida—has repeatedly disparaged [group] members as ‘terrorists,’” Walker wrote in his ruling Wednesday. “But this court rejects counsel’s suggestion that it should find … that [student groups have] standing simply because someone cloaked with great power makes coercive statements.”
“In short, the record demonstrates that neither deactivation nor criminal investigation is imminent,” Walker wrote. “Instead, this court finds that no actions have been taken in pursuit of deactivation under the chancellor’s memorandum.”
Walker’s decision gives DeSantis the upper hand in his continued fight to have the Students for Justice in Palestine groups removed from their respective campuses, Politico reported. The governor may face another legal battle, however, should his demand for the group’s removal from Florida campuses be granted.
Part of the reason DeSantis’ request has not been granted so far is because the universities are nervous about the legal ramifications of kicking Students for Justice in Palestine off campus for speech-related reasons, Politico reported.
Lawyers representing the universities also argue that DeSantis’ order is the equivalent of an “open letter” and has no authority or enforcement abilities.
This report originally was published by the Daily Caller News Foundation
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