At the College Fix Greg Piper has posted a mind-boggling account of the oral argument of the appeal in the First Amendment case brought by Shawnee State University Professor Nicholas Meriwether against university administrators. Piper introduces his long account this way:
A public university’s lawyer bumbled his way through oral argument last week on whether his taxpayer-funded client can force a philosophy professor to address a male student with female pronouns.
Sharp questioning by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals repeatedly left Keating Muething’s Paul Kerridge at a loss for words, including on whether Ohio’s Shawnee State University could similarly force a Jewish professor to address a student as “My Fuhrer.”
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Meriwether lost his First Amendment case at the trial court earlier this year. U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott ruled that his quarter-century practice of addressing students as “miss” and “mister” was not “a matter of intellectual debate” on gender identity protected by the First Amendment, but rather a “teaching method” that was “only of personal interest” to him.
The Sixth Circuit has posted the oral argument here. Counsel for the university officials begins his argument at about 20:30 of the audio recording. Alliance Defending Freedom attorney John Bursch did an excellent job on behalf of Professor Meriwether.
The highlight from which Pipes draws his headline comes at 27:15. The frame of reference for the argument is set by the Supreme Court cases of Pickering v. Board of Education and Garcetti v. Ceballos, to which frequent reference is made in the course of the argument. I believe that the larger context of the case is set forth in Christopher Caldwell’s new book, The Age of Entitlement, reviewed by Helen Andrews for the Claremont Review of Books in “The law that ate the Constitution.”
Piper’s detailed article has an end of the world as we know it quality to it. I’m not given to predictions, but I am afraid that there is much more of it in store for us in coming days.