11/03/2021 - Alteration to University of Florida Decision: Experts Can Testify But Only Without Pay.

Three University of Florida professors were prohibited from assisting plaintiffs in a lawsuit to overturn the state’s new law restricting voting rights, lawyers had said in a federal court filing last week. However, The University of Florida appeared to have changed its policy, now claiming the three professors who weren't allowed to testify as employed paid expert witnesses against the state can testify, if they accept pro bono or free work.

The plaintiff's attorney said the legislation "imposes substantial and unjustifiable
restrictions on the ability of eligible Floridians to vote and register to vote."

The university said Monday, "It is worth noting, the university views the professors' request as a request to be paid to testify against the state, and the university, as a public institution, is part of the state -- therefore, that would be adverse to the university's interests. However, to be clear, if the professors wish to do so pro bono on their own time without using university resources, they would be free to do so."

The case challenges parts of a new voting law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May.

The ban had been seen as an extraordinary limit on speech that raised questions of academic freedom and First Amendment rights.

The governor's office said the policy was in place before the law was passed and
reiterated that the university can deny requests that "are contrary to the institution's interests."

"For the record, the UF policy was last updated a year ago, prior to SB 90 -- so the university's policy could not possibly have been a reaction to this lawsuit. The Governor's Office did not make UF's policy, and there is zero evidence to suggest otherwise," spokesperson Christina Pushaw said.

The initial decision to ban the expert witnesses had created a furore.
They have sworn an oath to work on behalf of the people of Florida, not political interests. We will protect the professors' rights to speak on their own personal time, as citizens and as scholars." lawyers David A. O'Neil and Paul Donnelly, attorneys for Smith, Austin and McDonald had previously stated.

UF President Kent Fuchs and Provost Joe Glover said that university officials are committed to upholding the right to free speech as well as the right to academic freedom by faculty members when announcing a task force to review the policy.