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Speech First, Inc. v. Shrum.

No. 23-6054. 2/9/2024. W.D.Okla. Judge Hartz. Organizational Standing—Pseudonymous Declaration.

February 9, 2024

Oklahoma State University (OSU) implemented three schoolwide policies that allegedly chilled protected speech. Speech First, Inc., an organization whose mission includes the protection of free speech on college and university campuses, filed suit on behalf of its OSU student members against OSU President Shrum. The student members each submitted a pseudonymous declaration (using the names Student A, Student B, and Student C) describing how the policies allegedly inhibited their constitutionally protected expression. Shrum moved to dismiss for lack of standing. The district court granted the motion in reliance on Summers v. Earth Island Institute, 555 U.S. 488 (2009).

On appeal, Speech First, Inc. challenged the dismissal for lack of standing. Longstanding US Supreme Court authority supports standing for organizations whose injured members are not named, and the Tenth Circuit has held that organizational standing is proper when the plaintiff organization’s qualifying member is anonymous. Further, anonymity was not an issue in Summers, which held that for an organization to have standing it must identify by name at least one member who would have standing to personally bring the claim. While the Court in Summers explained that organizational standing requires a particular person who is injured, it did not indicate that standing cannot be based on injury to a person using a pseudonym. Therefore, the district court erred in dismissing the claim for lack of standing.

The dismissal was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Official US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit proceedings can be found at the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit website.

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