Judge Moves Up Professor’s Suit Against the University of Florida

Inside the Florida Gators Stadium

GAINESVILLE, FL – SEPTEMBER 2: Florida Gators University fans watch in action during the match against Miss Golden Eagles of the South at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 2, 2006 in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators beat the Eagles 34-7.

A federal court on Monday refuse to deny The lawsuit is filed by University of Florida professors who are fighting a controversial policy that recently prevented them and their colleagues from testifying in election-related lawsuits.

Political science professor Sharon Austin, Michael McDonald, and Daniel Smith sued the university’s board of trustees, the President W. Kent Fuchsand Provost Joseph Glover, saying that officials tried to prevent the trio from testifying in a lawsuit Alleged Sunshine State’s new voting law – passed after the 2020 election – discriminates against minorities and the elderly in order to limit access to the ballot box.

The policy in question requires professors to seek approval to select such matters under the term “outside activity”. Each of the three professors submitted requests through this process, and each of the three was, at first, turned down.

“The university refused to approve each [the professors’] applications, offering a range of variable and inconsistent interpretations set out the University’s real goal: to prevent [the professors] from testifying in favor of a challenge to the State [voting] policy, “their” The original petition was 18 pages long explain.

“Outside activities that may present a conflict of interest to the executive branch of the State of Florida create a conflict for the University of Florida,” Professor Smith said in his disclaimer.

Professor McDonald denied the following: “UF [w]refuse an employee’s request to participate in outside activities when determining that such activities are harmful to his or her interests. ”

“Since UF is a state institution, litigation against [S]tate is detrimental to the interests of UF,” the university told Austin.

After some remarkably bad pressHowever, the university agreed and allowed the three professors to testify in a particular lawsuit, as long as they were not paid to do so.

Fuchs also tried his own damage control and sent a message to the college community saying he had asked the “UF Office of Conflicts of Interest to reverse its decision on recent employee claims.” UF officer to serve as an expert witness in a proceeding in which Florida status is a party and to grant the claims regardless of individual compensation, assuming the action proceeds on their own time without does not use university resources. ”

The university’s defendants argued that their conditional exceptions to the anti-speech policy were enough to uphold the motion of dismissal.

The organization asserted that the plaintiff professors had no place because they were allowed to weigh in in that particular lawsuit. Additionally, the university claims, the plaintiffs’ claims are moot because Fuchs accepted the recommendation of a task force to slightly change policy in favor of the “strong assumption” that teachers The lawyer will be allowed to testify as an expert witness in the future.

In Monday, Barack Obama– Appointed US District Judge Mark Walker The university’s efforts to mitigate the anti-speech policy were few and far between.

“There is no doubt [the professors’] The expected course of conduct, participating in the litigation as an expert witness, is influenced for legitimate interests,” the opinion noted. “And [the professors] demonstrated that, out of fear of influence or reprisal, they were self-censoring that participation. An ‘alleged danger of this’ [policy] generally one of self-censorship measures; a perceivable harm without actual prosecution. “

And, despite the minor revisions to the rule, Walker went on to note that the policy poses a “credible threat of enforcement” because it was recently “revised” and because the defendants are still defending it in court – a standard set by the 11th Court of Appeals.

The decision also cited comments by the President of the University of Florida Board of Trustees Morteza “Mori” Hosseini, which strongly suggests that the university has no plans to change the policy.

From the verdict, in terms of length:

But even if that were not enough, the public statements of the President of the University Board of Governors leave this Court no doubt that the University of Florida intends to enforce its conflict of interest policy. themselves in the manner that the Plaintiffs fear. Speaking just ten days after Defendant Fuchs “adopted” the proposed changes to the conflict of interest policy that allegedly fueled this case, President Hosseini took a different tone. According to President Hosseini, the lecturers were “taking advantage of their positions” by using those positions “to improperly support individual political views to the exclusion of others.” “This. Will. No. Stand.” he commented, “[i]t has to stop, and it WILL stop. “President Hosseini also made it clear what was hidden in the previous denials of the University. “Think of everything we could have accomplished in the last five years,” he said. “All of this has been made possible thanks to the support of our state leaders.” And those leaders, he explains, are “fed up with the waste of [state] dollars of a few people are misusing their position. “So he closed the door,”[i]It’s time to stand up for what’s right and stop what’s wrong. In short, Plaintiff’s activities angered Tallahassee, which threatened the financial resources of the School, and so the School had to suspend Plaintiff’s activities.

Walker also dismissed the new policy’s strict provisions as being somewhat different from the old policy.

“The defendants repeated their alleged wrongdoing by implementing the new policy,” the court noted. “That policy, like the old one, does not limit the amount of time the College must decide to request endorsements. The plaintiff said, allow it to run out of time on any request. More importantly, the new policy does not negate the premise that the University may deny a request to testify not because testifying would interfere with the professor’s duties, but because the testimony the professor intends to give. grant would anger Florida’s political leaders to the point where it would hurt the bottom line of the University. And it is on that premise that the Plaintiffs believe that it violates the Constitution.”

The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction barring the university from adopting the revised policy. Oral arguments are currently scheduled for this upcoming Friday, January 7, 2022.

Read the full judge’s order denying the dismissal below:

[image via Doug Benc/Getty Images]

Is there a trick we should know? [email protected]

https://lawandcrime.com/first-amendment/federal-court-wont-dismiss-suit-accusing-university-of-florida-of-silencing-professors-critical-of-republican-voting-restrictions/ Judge Moves Up Professor’s Suit Against the University of Florida

Ian Walker

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