A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has refused to issue a court order that would have lifted a Mt. San Antonio College ban on cigarette and alcohol advertisements in the college's student newspaper.
Judge Norman L. Epstein said in a written order last week that he would not issue a preliminary injunction against college officials because the ban poses no immediate harm to the student publication, the Mountaineer Weekly.
Gary Williams, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing members of the newspaper staff and its adviser in a lawsuit filed in November against the college administration, said that as a result of the denial he may ask the judge to expedite the suit by ruling on its legal issues rather than waiting two to three years for a trial.
Williams said the case is based on constitutional issues that he believes can be dealt with in a so-called summary judgment. He said he will talk to Donald Newman, who advises the newspaper as part of his duties as journalism teacher at the college, and some of the paper's staff members before making a final decision.
Newman said he was disappointed in the judge's ruling because he believes the newspaper's finances have been hurt by the ban.
"We're not broke, but we're not in as good a shape as we have been," Newman said.
The suit alleges that income from the banned advertisements would allow the newspaper to improve its format and expand the journalism program at the college. The suit also contends that the ban is a violation of the students' rights to free speech under state and federal laws.
John D. Randall, president of Mt. San Antonio, has said he believes that the college has the same relationship to the newspaper as a private publisher has to a private newspaper because the school provides most of the funds for the paper's operation.
Carter Doran, dean of humanities and social sciences, the academic grouping that includes the journalism department, said the suit addresses a legal "gray area." Doran said he believes that an injunction was not needed.
"Case law is not too clear in this area," Doran said. "It's very clear at four-year (colleges): the newspaper is separate from the institution. But at the high school level, because of the age of the students, (courts have ruled that) the administration has every right to step in and control what goes in the paper. We're right in the middle."
Doran said students who want the ban lifted have a "narrow perspective" because of the short time they spend at the two-year college, and that Newman has had ample opportunity to work through administrative channels to present his argument against the ban.