The plaintiffs in the North Wind federal court case have filed a voluntary dismissal in the federal sixth circuit. The filing would end the controversial case.
“With the Court’s denial of injunctive relief, we are faced with many costly months of discovery and trial, after which it seems unlikely as a practical matter that the Court will reassign the journalism course and reinstate Reed as adviser in the middle of an academic term,” plaintiffs Cheryl Reed and Michael Williams wrote in a statement sent to Marquette Social Scene. “Accordingly, after conferring with legal counsel, we think that the more productive course is to voluntarily dismiss the case and move forward with preparing for the fall semester.”
The voluntary dismissal means that the case is over but can be refiled if similar concerns are raised. Until if or when a refiling would be needed, Reed and Williams are taking proactive measures to ensure journalistic freedom of the student journalists.
Along with officials from the Student Press Law Center, they have created a campaign called “New Voices of Michigan” which is aimed to create legislation in Michigan to protect student journalists and their advisors from retaliation. The campaign is mimicked from North Dakota, which was the 11th state along with the District of Columbia which has retaliation protection legislature.
North Wind’s new editor in chief Ray Bressette has also created a Go Fund Me page establishing a Freedom of Information Act fund that student journalists can use independently of the North Wind Board of Directors.
FOIA requests and related expenditures caused many battles between the board and the journalists. A vote to table discussion over a FOIA request that included emails by co-defendant and member of the board Steven Neiheisel received national attention after stories by local blogs were syndicated. Neiheisel was the deciding vote to stop discussion. The North Wind and the university were still discussing the redactions in the documents from that request until the Board removed Reed as advisor. Numerous emails and statements included as evidence in the case showed the confusion by board members about what FOIA’s should take place and why.
The page has already received $200, which is 20 percent of their goal.
Assistant Vice President of Communications and Marketing Derek Hall said that the dismissal allows everyone to move forward.
“The administration seeks, as always, positive working relationships with students associated with the North Wind. The publication is a valuable part of our campus. The new editor-in-chief, Ray Bressette, has our full support as he runs the newsroom,” he said.
Hall also said that NMU President Fritz Erickson will appoint a new community advisor to the North Wind Board of Directors shortly. The position is currently open as the previous community advisor did not seek reappointment.
A new candidate for journalistic advisor should come soon from Dean Michael Broadway and the English Department. They will nominate another candidate that has to be approved by both the editorial staff and the board. Reed was initially appointed but was not reapproved by the board. She was resubmitted by the English Department but Broadway decided to nominate the other journalism professor and former journalistic advisor Ray McCommons. The board approved him but the editorial staff did not.