Judge to hear final arguments in Linn State case

ACLU challenged college’s drug-testing policy

Since November 2011, Linn State Technical College and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri have been fighting in federal court over Linn State’s regents-approved policy requiring drug tests of all incoming students.

For about six hours Monday, both sides will have a final chance to convince U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey why their side has the better argument.

When Linn State’s Board of Regents adopted the drug-testing policy in June 2011, they said it was written in accordance with previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings that require technical and dangerous vocations to screen for drug use.

The ACLU lawsuit filed in November 2011 originally argued the policy violated the constitutional rights of all Linn State students.

Laughrey issued a preliminary injunction against the state-owned, two-year technical college, but the St. Louis-based federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January 2012: “Although Linn State’s drug-testing policy may have some unconstitutional applications, we are unable to say that it is unconstitutional on its face in every conceivable circumstance.”

The appeals court also ruled the policy clearly could be applied to some areas of study.

So Laughrey issued a new preliminary injunction in March, blocking the collecting of, or reporting the results of, drug tests conducted under the policy.

However, she wrote, it didn’t apply “to urine specimens collected from students who were or who have since enrolled in Linn State’s aviation maintenance, heavy equipment operations, and industrial electricity programs.”

In March, Kent Brown, a Jefferson City attorney who represents Linn State, said the new preliminary injunction “specifically acknowledges the appellate court’s ruling that the policy adopted by the college is constitutional generally, and exempts specific programs identified by the higher court from the new order.”

Brown also said in March that Laughrey’s order “does not find that plaintiffs are likely to prevail in the final hearing.”

But Tony Rothert, the ACLU’s legal director, said in March that Laughrey “ruled that most of the 500 students who were tested ... will likely succeed in their claim that the test violated their constitutional right to not be searched.”

Although both sides expect their final arguments to be finished Monday, no one predicted Laughrey would issue a final ruling the same day.

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