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IU pot-suspension appeal ‘near frivolous,’ 7th Circuit rules

December 31, 2013

An Indiana University student’s appeal of his suspension after a large marijuana plant and other evidence of illegal drug use were discovered in his dorm room “is near frivolous,” a panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

The panel affirmed summary judgment in favor of IU and other defendants in Zachary Medlcok v. Trustees of Indiana University, et al., 13-1900. Medlock appealed the ruling of District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the Southern District of Indiana alleging that the university violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure.

But the panel noted that IU had notified Medlock and other students of pending dorm room inspections for code violations by email a week in advance, and that notice of the inspections had been announced the same day. When resident assistants found marijuana in Medlock’s dorm they notified IU police, who executed a search warrant and counted 89 grams of marijuana, resulting in a felony possession charge.

The opinion notes that “for unexplained reasons the charges were dropped, although there can’t have been any doubt of his guilt.” The panel ruled that students and officers acted reasonably and lawfully after marijuana was discovered in Medlock’s dorm room.

“There is no merit to the due process claim,” Judge Richard Posner wrote for the panel. “The in-your-face flagrancy of Medlock’s violation of university rules (he had plenty of warning of the impending inspection, remember), and of Indiana’s criminal law, required the university to take immediate remedial action if its commitment to its rules, and to legality, was not to be questioned.”

“In short, the case is near frivolous, the decision to sue the two student inspectors offensive, and the most surprising feature of the entire episode is the exceptional lenity with which a state university (in a state that does not allow medicinal, let alone recreational, use of marijuana) treated a brazen violator of its rules of conduct and of the criminal law,” Posner wrote.

“But as we noted some years ago, ‘the danger that without the procedural safeguards deemed appropriate in civil and criminal litigation public universities will engage in an orgy of expulsions is slight. The relation of students to universities is, after all, essentially that of customer to seller. … And if we may judge from the happy ending of the marijuana bust for Medlock, the customer is indeed always right.”


 

 

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