State Supremes Tune Out Shock Jock’s Petition

Former radio shock jock Jason Antebi will have to be satisfied with suing Occidental College and its general counsel for defamation.

On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court refused to review his broader claims that the private college in Los Angeles violated a state law protecting students’ speech rights.

In August, L.A.’s Second District Court of Appeal threw out (.pdf) invasion of privacy and emotional distress claims Antebi had filed against Occidental College, which he attended from the fall of 2000 until the spring of 2004.

Antebi had been a shock jock on the school’s student-run radio station, and routinely mocked people of all persuasions. After three students filed complaints accusing him of making racist and sexist comments, Antebi fired back on-air.

College administrators eventually removed Antebi from the show and officially censured him. General Counsel Sandra Cooper, however, allegedly made the mistake of confronting Antebi in a public hallway in March 2004 and supposedly calling him a racist, sexist, misogynist, anti-Semite homophobe who was “unethical” and “immoral trash.”

Antebi sued the school and Cooper in March 2005. All his claims were thrown out by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Jane Johnson, but the appeal court reinstated the defamation allegation.

Antebi wanted more, though. In his petition for review filed with the California Supreme Court, his lawyers argued that Occidental had violated the state’s Leonard Law, which prohibits colleges from subjecting students to disciplinary measures for engaging in constitutionally protected speech.

Christopher Arledge, a partner in Costa Mesa’s Turner Green Afrasiabi & Arledge, argued that the court of appeal incorrectly ruled that students cannot sue under the Leonard Law unless they are currently enrolled at the institution.

Arledge insisted that appeal court’s ruling would “greatly reduce the scope of the Leonard Law and the protections it was designed to provide.”

Antebi also challenged the Second District’s decision that all of his claims except defamation had to go through the college’s own internal appeals processes before he could file a suit in state court.

“By extending the exhaustion of internal remedies rule to apply even to tort claims,” Arledge wrote, “the court of appeal has effectively granted private colleges and other private organizations immunity from tort liability.”

Occidental College thought so little of the petition for review that its lawyers filed no response. The high court gave the arguments equally short shrift, voting 6-1 against review. Only Justice Carlos Moreno voted to take up Antebi’s appeal.

At least Antebi still has a defamation suit to fall back on.

The case is Antebi v. Occidental College, S146525.

Mike McKee

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