The lawyer says at the heated hearing that the professors who sued U. from Florida have “dirty hands”

A lawyer representing the University of Florida board of directors, its president and two senior administrators said at a court hearing on Friday that three political science professors who sued his company’s clients had “dirty hands” and committed “wrongdoing.” “

Three scholars – Daniel A. Smith, Michael McDonald and Sharon Wright Austin – filed a lawsuit after the university rejected their request to participate in a lawsuit over voting rights that was challenged by the state. They were told that, as part of a university’s conflict of interest policy, participation in such work was “unfavorable” to the university’s interests as a state institution. Rejection reports sparked a wave of resistance and the university quickly reversed the course.

In November, Smith, McDonald and Austin sued in federal court that their First Amendment rights had been violated and that the conflict of interest policy was unconstitutional. Three other members of the University of Florida faculty joined the lawsuit. Scholars’ interest in “speaking freely on matters of public interest far outweighs any interest of the state in censoring their testimonies,” the complaint said.

The lawyers representing the University of Florida argued in the filing that the case should be taken to court, in part because it is debatable. The plaintiffs “simply refuse to accept yes as an answer,” the motion for rejection states. And the lawyers point out that the conflict of interest policy has been revised. (Prosecutors argued that despite revisions, the policy remains unconstitutional.)

On Friday afternoon, at a court hearing over the phone, the parties appeared before Mark E. Walker, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, to present arguments regarding the plaintiffs’ application for interim measures.

H. Christopher Bartolomucci, a partner at a Washington-based company representing UF defendants, threw the curve. Bartolomucci of Schaerr Jaffe LLP told the court that “two days ago” they learned facts that “should fundamentally change” the court’s view of the case.

According to him, the university’s policy is clear that a faculty member may not engage in external work “unless and until” the university approves it.

“We know now,” he said, saying that Smith, Austin and McDonald’s worked as experts before submitting their demands, and that they continued to work as experts after the university rejected their applications. Bartolomucci went on to recite a series of data in which scholars contributed to the work on the litigation.

Yet these facts are “nowhere to be found” in the plaintiffs’ complaints or statements, Bartolomucci said. They “misled” their employer, a lawyer, and this court, he said. And their “misbehavior,” he said, affects the case in several ways. First, the plaintiffs have “dirty hands,” he said. Also, ‘there is no cooling effect’, as the plaintiffs claimed, because “this policy did not cool them down”.

In response, David A. O’Neil, a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, one of the companies representing the scientists, said Bartolomucci did a “great job” and explained the coldness facing the plaintiffs and other faculty members. on. Defendants are far from distancing themselves from their rejection decisions, but are now “doubling” and making it clear that prosecutors may be punished for refusing to follow what scholars firmly believe is an unconstitutional restriction on their speech.

O’Neil later pointed out at the hearing that Smith never denied work on the voting rights lawsuit until he obtained UF approval because he did not think the university would object. “It’s always encouraged him to do it before,” O’Neil said.

He also said during the meeting that the case was not about what had happened in the past. “It’s about what.” will The tasks of faculty members, O’Neil said, are to “create an environment” in which “creating and sharing knowledge for the good of the people of Florida is encouraged.” But the defense, instead of saying “what should be obvious – we will not discriminate speech on the basis of perspective “- instead” attacked the faculty members “who have been at this university for years.

Judge Walker was clearly taken aback by Bartolomucci’s sudden turn. The judge said he was “confused” that Bartolomucci was suggesting that the facts were new when the defense did not formally request disclosure and that, if the judge could say, the information was part of a public record. “I have to say I’m confused.” He urged Bartolomucci as possible.

The lawyer began to answer and said, “We first learned” about the facts on Wednesday night.

Walker interrupted him. Bartolomucci did it in a “squirrel” way, the judge scolded. Now Walker was “upset.”

The university lawyer did it in a “great” way, Judge Walker reprimanded him. Now the judge was “upset.”

“You will answer my question directly.” He then threatened to “call you to Tallahassee” and take him under oath, which he had once done to a lawyer. Walker ordered Bartolomucci to answer his question. “You mean, ‘Judge, I was just incompetent and didn’t bother pulling public records to see how they were dated?” Is that the answer? ”

When, Walker asked, did Bartolomucci suddenly decide to “drop this bomb” and “attack the professors” with “unclean hands”?

Bartolomucci replied that Smith, McDonald and Austin did not state “any warning or indication” that they were involved in their work as experts and witnesses before and after their denial.

But why, Walker asked, would this information be in their affidavits? He continued, “They were supposed to show up at your office and take you through things – I just don’t understand.”

After further rounds, Bartolomucci said the information was discovered Wednesday night because the defense was “starting to examine” the files in an “election event.”

“Then why?” Walker pressed. “Why not in December?”

Bartolomucci began to answer, but Walker interrupted.

“I’ve heard enough, Counselor, and I have to tell you – anyway.” I’ll stop there. “

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