President Clinton's impeachment nemesis Kenneth Starr is staying busy. Monday, the former Independent Counsel is expected to file a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the suspension of a high school student disciplined for holding a banner across the street from campus reading, "BONG HITS 4 JESUS."
The incident occurred in January 2002, as the Olympic torch relay wound through Juneau, Alaska, en route to the winter games in Salt Lake City. As the torch passed by the school, student Joseph Frederick and friends unfurled the banner across the street from campus apparently to attract the attention of television cameras.
A bong is a popular device used to smoke marijuana, inhalation from which is commonly known as a "bong hit." The school principal suspended Mr. Frederick - allegedly the only student who disobeyed her command to put down the banner - for 10 days. Mr. Frederick claimed the suspension violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. A federal district judge sided with the school, but a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously reversed.
Mr. Starr and other attorneys in the Los Angeles office of Kirkland & Ellis have accepted the case pro bono. Should the court grant the petition, the outcome could hinge on whether the banner disrupted the educational process, whether watching the relay was a school-sponsored event, and whether Mr. Frederick - who had yet to enter school property that morning because his car had been stuck in the snow - was officially on campus.