Research Misconduct & Conflict of Interest; Research; First Amendment & Free Speech; Constitutional Issues
Tracy v. Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees (S.D. Fla. Dec. 15, 2016)
A former professor at Florida Atlantic University was terminated after he made controversial comments in his personal blog. FAU claimed that it fired Plaintiff for refusing to comply with its conflict of interest policy. The Court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint as it applied to the individual FAU employees in their official capacities for being duplicative of the claims against FAU. Upon finding that no clearly established law existed to indicate that FAU’s conflict of interest policy or form requirement were clearly unconstitutional, the Court concluded that the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity in that regard. However, in light of the Complaint’s lack of clarity on whether Plaintiff’s blog posts discussed a matter of public concern, whether Plaintiff was fired for his speech, whether FAU’s rationale for his termination was pretextual, and whether Plaintiff’s interest in his exercise of speech outweighed FAU’s interest in suppressing that speech; the Court afforded Plaintiff one final opportunity to amend his pleading in order to address these deficiencies.