VICTORY IN ONGOING HARDWICK CASE PROCEEDINGS: APPEALS COURT HANDS CASE BACK TO CIRCUIT COURT
The Southern Legal Resource Center
eU P D A T E
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Published electronically by the Southern Legal Resource Center
P.O. Box 1235
Black Mountain, NC 28711
RICHMOND, VA – Citing failure of the defendants to address a key element of Candice Hardwick’s in-school Confederate clothing ban case, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has remanded the case to the lower court in which it was originally filed.
The appellate court’s action leaves the door open for further arguments in the case, which the lower court had summarily dismissed, and was hailed by supporters of Ms. Hardwick as a tactical victory. "The court could easily have dismissed the case, but instead did the only thing they could do for Candice – send the case back to the Florence District Court with instructions to ‘do it right.’ Anytime the lower court and the defendants get spanked by a higher court – that is cause for us little people to rejoice," said SLRC Board Chairman Neill H. Payne.
Ms. Hardwick began experiencing “disciplinary” action at the hands of various teachers and administrators in her home town of Latta, S.C. beginning when she was in middle school, for wearing clothing items depicting various inoffensive Confederate images. School officials contended that such clothing might foment racial unrest and disciplinary problems, though no such issues were reported in connection with her wearing it. In 2006 , Ms. Hardwick, then in high school, filed suit against the school board and certain administrators in U.S. Circuit Court in Florence. After three years of legal wrangling the court eventually granted summary dismissal of the case, whereupon the SLRC filed appeal at the Fourth Circuit level. Oral arguments in the case were heard in Richmond on October 27.
The appeals court based its remand on failure of the school board’s attorneys to answer Ms. Hardwick’s claim that her First Amendment rights were further violated when the school prohibited her from wearing t-shirts protesting the Confederate flag ban, even though the so-called “protest shirts” bore no Confederate images. The defendant’s legal team “inexplicably [did] not address [Ms. Hardwick’s] argument that the case must be remanded for the court to consider her First Amendment damages claim involving the protest clothing,” the court’s ruling states.
“Candice has waited very patiently for 7 years for someone in authority to deliver her the simple justice she and all Latta students deserve,” said SLRC Chief Trial Counsel Kirk Lyons. “She has inoffensively displayed pride in her heritage for 7 years that has caused no verifiable disruption, she has been denied even the right to protest the school’s decision to violate her rights – and now someone in a black robe has listened and acted – this is a great day for every school child in South Carolina and a great day for freedom. The fight now goes on – back to the District Court in Florence – but we look forward to the continued contest – and eventual vindication for Candice Hardwick,” Lyons concluded.