Court grants attorneys' fees to professor in First Amendment case

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Apr. 14, 2010, 4:48pm

GALVESTON - A federal court has ordered a local community college to foot a professor's legal expenses in accordance to a recent settlement.

The College of the Mainland must pay $14,000 for government professor David Smith's litigation fees after two federal judges ruled that the school infringed on the First Amendment rights of Smith and his wife Rona when its board of trustees refused to let the couple speak at a board meeting back in June.

The Smiths, who were represented by Galveston attorney Anthony P. Griffin, were consequently awarded the $1 they sought when the sued the school and its trustees six months ago, but will not receive additional monetary compensation.

According to the original complaint, David Smith claimed he tried to voice his opposition to changes in employee policy, but the trustees repeatedly shot down Smith's proposed agenda items and the board chairperson reportedly silenced Smith and his wife during the public speaking portion of the June 22, 2009, meeting.

Three months ago, Federal Magistrate John Froeschner explained in a seven-page document that the Smiths were to "likely succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claim."

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt echoed Froeschner's recommendations and imposed an injunction against the college.

Last month the Smith's agreed to voluntarily dismiss the case.

Case No. 3:09-cv-00152

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