The Volokh Conspiracy

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Academic Freedom

Profs Get Preliminary Injunction against University of Florida

Federal judge issues a strongly worded opinion on Florida's conflict of interest policy


The 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 was a violation of the university's conflict of interest policy. That claim caused an outcry among academic freedom advocates, including the Academic Freedom Alliance. The university eventually revised its policy and allowed the professors to work with the parties in the voting rights litigation. Nonetheless, the professors sought an injunction from a federal judge preventing the university from returning to a similar policy in the future. The suit previously survived a motion to dismiss, and today the judge issued a sharply worded opinion granting the preliminary injunction.

It's worth pausing to note just how shocking Defendants' position is. Defendants all but recognize that Plaintiffs are speaking in their private capacity on matters of public concern. Yet Defendants claim the right to restrict that speech if they determine—in their unlimited discretion—that the viewpoint expressed in Plaintiffs' speech would harm an ill-defined "interest" of the University. And what are UF's interests? Why must Defendants regulate Plaintiffs' speech? How does Plaintiffs' speech prevent the efficient delivery of government services, impair discipline, workplace harmony, or employer confidence? Despite being given not one, not two, but four chances to articulate either in writing or at oral argument how Plaintiffs' speech disrupts UF's mission, Defendants cannot or will not say.

The full opinion can be found here.