Judge Hands DeSantis Yet Another Legal Win Against Pro-Palestinian Student Groups

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Jake Smith Contributor
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Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took a legal victory after a federal judge refused to block his demand to oust pro-Palestinian student groups from Florida universities, Politico reported on Thursday.

Two Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters 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 he he would do so over their support for Hamas, according to Politico. Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker refused the SJP groups’ request to block DeSantis from taking measures to punish them and dismissed the governor as the defendant in the lawsuits. (RELATED: Federal Judge Dismisses Disney’s Lawsuit Against DeSantis)

Walker argued that while the SJP 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,” according to Politico. He also argued that, even with the threats against them, their speech had not “reasonably chilled – or chilled at all – for fear of punishment.”

The SJP groups’ lawsuits argued that DeSantis’ push to get them off campus through a “deactivation order” violated their free speech laws, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, the organization representing them in the case. They had asked the court to squash 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 on 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 SJP groups removed from their respective campuses, according to Politico. DeSantis may face another legal battle, however, should his demand for the group’s removal 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 the SJP groups off campus for speech-related reasons, according to Politico. Lawyers representing the universities also argue that DeSantis’ order is equalizing to an “open letter” and has no authority or enforcement abilities.

The University of Florida and The University of South Florida did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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