ISU’s Viewpoint Discrimination Case Cost Taxpayers Over $343,000

Taxpayers in Iowa will have to dole out more than $343,000 after a federal court decided that students with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws at Iowa State University had the right to use a cannabis leaf and the Iowa State cyclone on the front of their T-shirts. The funds will be paid out of the state’s general budget after lawyers have battled the case for many years in court.

In 2012, the organization received permission to use the team’s mascot on the organization’s shirts. The Des Moines Register asked if this was the impression that the school officials wanted to leave with the general public. After the Register pointed out their opinion, then school officials blocked the reordering of any shirts with a cannabis leaf on them. They also took steps to change the regulations on how the school’s name and mascot could be portrayed.

Then, Paul Gerlich and Erin Furleigh took the university to court with their lawyers arguing that the university’s blocking of the use of the mascot and name amounted to viewpoint administration. After several rounds in court, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the students had the right to use the mascot and school name.

The two students will each receive $75,000 each while their attorneys will receive more than $193,000 for their work. A federal judge will also tell the university how much more money that they will need to pay the attorneys for additional work. Lawyers with the Iowa Attorney General’s office defended the school and its officials for free.

Officials with the state say that it is still cheaper to settle the case than to continue to fight it.