Bruce Gilley’s Case Against U of O Goes Forward

Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Bruce Gilley’s suit against the University of Oregon for banning him from the school’s @UOEquity Twitter account is not moot. Such banning is a fairly normal thing for people to do on the social media platform now called X. However, public institutions are held to a different standard.

tova stabin was the Communication Manager for the university’s Division of Equity and Inclusion. (Stabin doesn’t capitalize Stabin’s name. I want to be polite and don’t know if I could or should then capitalize that name when it’s the first word of a sentence). tova stabin is on the record as deeming Gilley to have tweeted something racist when Gilley retweeted “all men are created equal.” tova stabin then blocked Gilley. This blocking lasted for two months. During that time, Gilley sought to learn what policies governed his blocking. The University of Oregon denied the existence of any such policy.

The university has sought to dismiss the case as moot. After Gilley sued, U of O unblocked him. So the defense argued that since he is no longer blocked the case is moot. The Court denied the university’s motion saying:

Mootness turns on whether the voluntary cessation exception applies because “a defendant cannot automatically moot a case simply by ending its unlawful conduct once sued.” As the party asserting that “the challenged conduct cannot reasonably be expected to start up again,” the University bears the “heavy” burden of making that showing…. [T]he University’s decision to unblock Gilley was not due to a statutory or regulatory change …. Given the policy’s lack of formality and relative novelty, how easily the policy can be reversed, and the lack of procedural safeguards to protect from arbitrary action, the University has not met its heavy burden to show that the conduct cannot reasonably be expected to recur….

So this case has been remanded to the Oregon District Court, to try Gilley’s case. Gilley v tova remains in play.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there.