Barnes v. Zaccari

From May 2007 to July 2015
Valdosta State University (Public college or university)
Valdosta, GA, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • Hayden Barnes

    Hayden Barnes was a student at Valdosta State University.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Rally or protest
  • Incident Political Orientation:
  • Incident Responses:
    University investigation issuing in sanctions
    Student sanctioned
  • Incident Status:
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


Hayden Barnes was a student at Valdosta State University (VSU). In May 2007, Barnes was expelled from VSU by former president Ronald Zaccari for a satirical environmental collage he posted on his personal Facebook page, protesting the planned construction of two parking garages on campus. Barnes was not afforded a hearing, and his expulsion was justified on the grounds that his collage indicated he presented a “clear and present danger” to VSU’s campus.

Barnes filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against various university administrators including the board of regents, alleging violation of due of process, retaliation for exercising his right to free speech under the First Amendment, and breach of contract. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Barnes on his claim of a violation of procedural due process against Zaccari because Zaccari did not afford Barnes a pre-withdrawal notice of the charges against him or a hearing. The district court also granted Barnes summary judgment against the board of regents on his breach-of-contract claim, but granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the remaining claims. Zaccari and the board of regents filed an interlocutory appeal. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. After remand, the district court awarded attorney fees to Barnes as the prevailing plaintiff on his procedural due process claim and to some of the defendants he ruled were subject to frivolous claims. Barnes appealed.

On January 12, 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s grant of summary judgment against Zaccari for the retaliation claim, its judgment awarding attorney’s fees to Barnes, and its judgment awarding attorney’s fees to some of the defendants. On July 23, 2015, the case finally ended with a $900,000 settlement.