Debevoise Video Highlights Critical First Amendment Victory Against the University of Florida

6 October 2022

A new video produced by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP highlights an important pro bono First Amendment victory on behalf of a group of professors at the University of Florida.

Earlier this year, a Debevoise team led by litigation partner David O’Neil secured a preliminary injunction against the University of Florida for six professors after they were barred from offering expert testimony against the state of Florida. The case arose when the University of Florida – which had long encouraged faculty members to serve as expert witnesses for or against the state – abruptly began prohibiting professors from participating as expert witnesses in a case challenging a voting restriction bill signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The university sought to prevent the professors from speaking on the ground that faculty participation in court cases against the executive branch of the state presented a “conflict of interest” for the university.

In order to secure long-term protection for free speech rights, the Debevoise team along with co-counsel Donnelly & Gross sued the university’s president and its Board of Trustees, and then sought a preliminary injunction stopping the university from continuing to suppress faculty speech. Following the submission of five briefs and two weeks of oral arguments, Judge Mark Walker of the Northern District of Florida ruled in favor of the professors, granting the plaintiff’s motion to enjoin the University of Florida from continuing to silence professors who wish to speak as expert witnesses opposing the state of Florida.

Debevoise provides a wide array of pro bono legal services to marginalized communities and underserved populations on matters ranging from landmark international and national disputes to representations of low-income individuals. We also partner with clients on a range of corporate, litigation and tax pro bono matters in clinic settings, and on individual matters.