Tag Archives: First Amendment

FAU Professors’ Free Speech Dispute Now Before US Court of Appeals (video)

On September 4, 2015 FAU constitutional law professors protested the university’s arbitrary use of an “Outside Employment/Activities Policy” to suppress faculty members’ off-campus speech. Professors expressed their grievance to FAU President John Kelly and other top administrators at a rancorous faculty senate meeting.

Three months later FAU used the same policy as a pretext to terminate Professor James Tracy for his controversial political blog. On September 19, 2019, the FAU policy was scrutinized before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in oral argument.

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FAU’s Suppression of Faculty Speech is Now Federal Law (Video)

On December 11, 2017 the jury in the TracyvFAU 10-day trial returned a verdict in favor of defendant Florida Atlantic University. The federal case involved the work of over 12 attorneys and close to 500 separate legal briefs. Yet the decision’s implications for the First Amendment and free speech can be summarized in five minutes.

Trial attorney Matthew Benzion discusses Florida Atlantic University’s unlawful use of an “Outside Employment/Activities Policy” to fire Professor James Tracy and restrict faculty and staff speech before-the-fact–a policy that is now effectively part of federal law and can be arbitrarily used to police and reprimand any public employee’s personal activities and online speech.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Free Speech Not “For Free”

This week Angela Merkel, a German-Polish Marxist who has served as the Federal Republic of Germany’s chancellor since 2005, warned against the “propagation of hate”, cautioning those who may tend to speak their minds, that freedom of speech is not “for free.'”

Echoing the rhetoric of a public relations campaign underway throughout the West against “hate speech,” Merkels’ comments came in an address to the German Parliament on November 27.

Merkel came under fire in 2016 for agreeing with Turkish President Erdoğan to prosecute a German comedian for publicly reciting a poem satirizing Recep Erdoğan in a performance that sought to illustrate the limits of free speech in Germany.

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Citing First Amendment, Indiana University Refuses to Fire Controversial Professor

Editor’s Note: A major US research university has refused to terminate a tenured professor’s employment for exercising his constitutionally-protected right to free speech. The university’s ostensible respect for the First Amendment elicited positive reactions from “students, academics and lawyers, many of whom praised the provost for publicly excoriating the professor’s opinions while respecting one of the nation’s basic freedoms,” the New York Times observes.

There is notably no mention by the “newspaper of record” of the TracyvFAU First Amendment case where in 2015 a Florida public university successfully sidestepped the First Amendment by firing a tenured academic for questioning his university administration’s efforts to censor his similarly protected speech.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs
New York Times

(November 22, 2019)

A provost at Indiana University has earned praise for harshly condemning a professor’s views while respecting the First Amendment.

The provost did not mince her words about the opinions of a professor on her campus. His views were racist, sexist and homophobic, she wrote in a statement this week. They were “vile and stupid,” she said, and “more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st.”

But the provost, Lauren Robel of Indiana University Bloomington, was equally clear on another point: The First Amendment prohibited the university from firing the professor, Eric Rasmusen, for expressing those views. “That is not a close call,” wrote Professor Robel, who also teaches at the law school. 

The unusually candid statement quickly drew attention from students, academics and lawyers, many of whom praised the provost for publicly excoriating the professor’s opinions while respecting one of the nation’s basic freedoms. 

Conflicts over academic freedom and private speech have long been mainstays of college campuses. There was the case of Steven Salaita, the professor whose job offer was revoked by the University of Illinois in 2014 over his criticism of Israel. And John McAdams, the professor who was reinstated by a Wisconsin court last year after Marquette University suspended him for criticizing a graduate student on his personal blog.

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TracyvFAU Free Speech Case Analysis (Video Series)

In this forthcoming series of interview vignettes Attorneys Louis Leo IV and Matthew Benzion, alongside James Tracy and others, discuss Tracy’s 2016 case against Florida Atlantic University, the 10-day trial and misleading “fake news” media circus that surrounded the event, and the unfolding implications for free speech in higher education and broader social discourse.

On September 4, 2015 FAU constitutional law professors protested the university’s arbitrary use of an “Outside Employment/Activities Policy” to suppress faculty members’ off-campus speech. Professors expressed their grievance to FAU President John Kelly and other top administrators at a rancorous faculty senate meeting. Three months later FAU used the same policy as a pretext to terminate Professor James Tracy for his controversial political blog. On September 19, 2019, the FAU policy was scrutinized before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in oral argument .
On December 11, 2017 the jury in the TracyvFAU 10-day trial returned a verdict in favor of defendant Florida Atlantic University. The federal case involved the work of over 12 attorneys and close to 500 separate legal briefs. Yet the decision’s implications for the First Amendment and free speech can be summarized in five minutes.

Trial attorney Matthew Benzion discusses Florida Atlantic University’s unlawful use of an “Outside Employment/Activities Policy” to fire Professor James Tracy and restrict faculty and staff speech before-the-fact–a policy that is now effectively part of federal law and can be arbitrarily used to police and reprimand any public employee’s personal activities and online speech.
In 2018 veteran North Miami police officer Ericson Harrell questioned the school shooting in Parkland Florida and subsequently became the target of a smear campaign led by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Because of this defamatory campaign his employer opened an official investigation that eventually led to his resignation after 20 years of service.
Attorney Matthew Benzion, co-counsel in Professor James Tracy’s First Amendment lawsuit against Florida Atlantic University, discusses the behind-the-scenes and unreported legal elements of TracyvFAU transpiring in the lead-up to the 2017 trial.
In this excerpt Louis Leo discusses the free speech implications of the lower federal court’s decisions in TracyvFAU.

To find out more about the TracyvFAU appeal and ongoing federal litigation against Florida Atlantic University police officers, please visit TracyLegalDefense.org and FloridaCivilRights.org.

Your continued support is most appreciated!

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A New Kind of Tyranny: The Global State’s War on Those Who Speak Truth to Power

John Whitehead
The Rutherford Institute
(November 5, 2019)

“What happens to Julian Assange and to Chelsea Manning is meant to intimidate us, to frighten us into silence. By defending Julian Assange, we defend our most sacred rights. Speak up now or wake up one morning to the silence of a new kind of tyranny. The choice is ours.”—John Pilger, investigative journalist

All of us are in danger.

In an age of prosecutions for thought crimes, pre-crime deterrence programs, and government agencies that operate like organized crime syndicates, there is a new kind of tyranny being imposed on those who dare to expose the crimes of the Deep State, whose reach has gone global.

The Deep State has embarked on a ruthless, take-no-prisoners, all-out assault on truth-tellers.

Activists, journalists and whistleblowers alike are being terrorized, traumatized, tortured and subjected to the fear-inducing, mind-altering, soul-destroying, smash-your-face-in tactics employed by the superpowers-that-be.

Take Julian Assange, for example.

Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks—a website that published secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources—was arrested on April 11, 2019, on charges of helping U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning access and leak more than 700,000 classified military documents that portray the U.S. government and its military as reckless, irresponsible and responsible for thousands of civilian deaths.

Included among the leaked Manning material were the Collateral Murder video (April 2010), the Afghanistan war logs (July 2010), the Iraq war logs (October 2010), a quarter of a million diplomatic cables (November 2010), and the Guantánamo files (April 2011).

The Collateral Murder leak included gunsight video footage from two U.S. AH-64 Apache helicoptersengaged in a series of air-to-ground attacks while air crew laughed at some of the casualties. Among the casualties were two Reuters correspondents who were gunned down after their cameras were mistaken for weapons and a driver who stopped to help one of the journalists. The driver’s two children, who happened to be in the van at the time it was fired upon by U.S. forces, suffered serious injuries.

This is morally wrong.

It shouldn’t matter which nation is responsible for these atrocities: there is no defense for such evil perpetrated in the name of profit margins and war profiteering.

In true Orwellian fashion, however, the government would have us believe that it is Assange and Manning who are the real criminals for daring to expose the war machine’s seedy underbelly.

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