Federal judge issues strong opinion on Florida’s conflict of interest policy
Keith E. Whittington
Professors who were blocked by the University of Florida from offering expert testimony in a voting rights lawsuit against the state have won a significant legal victory for their academic freedom claims. The university had claimed that such expert testimony violated the university’s conflict of interest policy. This claim caused an uproar among academic freedom advocates, including the Academic Freedom Alliance. The university eventually revised its policy and allowed faculty to work with the parties in the voting rights dispute. Nevertheless, the professors sought an injunction from a federal judge preventing the university from returning to a similar policy in the future. The lawsuit previously survived a motion to dismiss and today the judge gave an emphatic opinion granting the preliminary injunction.
It is worth stopping to note how shocking The position of the defendants is. The defendants almost acknowledge that the plaintiffs speak in their private capacity on matters of public interest. Yet the defendants claim the right to restrict such speech if they determine, in their unlimited discretion, that the views expressed in The plaintiffs’ speech allegedly harms an ill-defined “interest” of the University. And what are UF’s interests? Why should defendants regulate the speech of plaintiffs? How it works Complainants’ speeches impede the effective delivery of government services, undermine discipline, harmony in the workplace or employer confidence? Although it is not given one, not two, but four chance to express in writing or in oral argument how Plaintiffs’ speech disrupts UF’s mission, Defendants cannot or will not say so.
The full review can be found here.