He is seeking symbolic damages of $1.
During the arguments, held online due to the coronavirus epidemic, Chief Justice John Roberts suggested to Waggoner that it might be problematic that "the only redress you're asking for is a declaration that you're right."
According to the Associated Press, Justice Elena Kagan wondered whether the case was bringing a lawsuit for "pure vindication alone." At the same time, she noted the $1 symbolic award to Taylor Swift for sexual assault, who had successfully counter sued a former radio DJ after he filed a lawsuit claiming she falsely accused him of groping her and lost his job.
"Why isn't that the same as this?" she asked. "The petitioner here says he was harmed. He wasn't able to speak when he should have been able to speak...He's just asking for $1 to redress that harm."
Justice Brett Kavanaugh thought there were "a number of things" working against the defense put forward by Georgia Solicitor General Andrew Pinson, who represented college officials.
He also voiced skepticism, saying, "I'm trying to, again, figure out what's really at stake here. This is not about the $1, I wouldn't think." He said it was his "strong suspicion that attorneys fees is what's driving all this on both sides."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was among the many groups to file an amicus brief in the case. The brief was co-signed with the National Association of Evangelicals and the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
The brief defended the use of "nominal damages" in response to "past wrongs without quantifiable economic harm" and especially useful in cases where First Amendment free speech and free exercise of religion rights are violated.
"Because a defendant's conduct may grievously transgress these first freedoms without resulting in any measurable economic harm, nominal damages are often the only remedy available to vindicate those rights," said the brief. Nominal damages help ensure judicial review when rights are violated, it added.
Other amicus briefs came from a wide variety of political and religious groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Cato Institute, the Christian Legal Society, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty.