CU Students to Sue Over Pot-Smoking Photos

May 2006

Students at the University of Colorado who were present but not among those photographed by campus police as they smoked marijuana during a national drug law protest day on April 20 have retained counsel and plan to file a lawsuit against the University. From a SAFER Colorado press release (received by e-mail, not online):

Colorado-based civil rights attorneys Perry Sanders, Jr. and Robert J. Frank will return to the University of Colorado-Boulder on Wednesday, May 10, to announce plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the university based on the actions of the CU Police Department during and after the recent April 20 pro-marijuana event on Farrand Field.

The lawyers say they represent "certain" of the C.U. students, and will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. today at the northeast corner of Farrand Field on the CU-Boulder campus to discuss details of the lawsuit.

"We offered the University an olive branch," said Mr. Sanders. "We, on behalf of clearly innocent students, asked them to take down the Web site and purge information related to it. We advised that the University would continue to harm these individuals if they acted on any of this information. The University not only rejected the olive branch, but picked up their bully club during finals and began telling students to come into the police station for questioning.

According to the lawyers: "Our clients were not pictured smoking, were not smoking and are not even listed as "identified,'" Mr. Sanders said, "yet the police called them today (Tuesday) and demanded that they come to the station for questioning. The current actions of the CU Police are having the intended effect of inflicting emotional distress on students taking very serious finals at a very serious University. The point the lawyers are making is this:

"The CUPD is currently calling students whose photographs appear on the Web site and demanding that they come down and speak with them," said Mr. Sanders. "As Mr. Frank will advise, no student is required to speak with the police and no student can be forced to talk to the police without legal representation....They are now trying to use police, acting under color of authority, to intimidate people who peacefully exercised their constitutional right to lawfully express themselves."

This story has had legs with the national cable shows. Rita Cosby has been following it on MSNBC. I've seen it on Fox News. Background on the incident is here.

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