Three more professors join lawsuit against University of Florida officials

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The political controversy unfolding at the University of Florida continues as three new professors join a lawsuit and one more UF official is named as a defendant.

On Monday, the attorneys representing UF professors Sharon Wright, Michael McDonald and Daniel Smith submitted an update to their complaint in a lawsuit over the university’s current conflict of interest policy. Three more professors, Jeffrey Goldhagen, Teresa J. Reid and Kenneth B. Nunn, joined the lawsuit.

The amended complaint also adds Laura Rosenbury, the dean of the Fredric G. Levin College of Law, to the list of defendants. Defendants previously included the UF Board of Trustees, President Kent Fuchs and Provost Joseph Glover.

The complaint states that Rosenbury is being sued in her official capacity for enforcing UF’s conflict of interest policy as it applies to professors in the law school.

Goldhagen is a professor and chief of the Division of Community and Societal Pediatrics who has been a member of the UF faculty since 1993, according to the amended complaint. Goldhagen was asked to serve as an expert witness in a lawsuit out of Leon County titled McCarthy, et al. v. DeSantis, et al. that challenged a state executive order that would withhold funding from school districts that implemented mask mandates.

The amended complaint states that Goldhagen was “astonished” when his request was denied and the explanation he received was that testifying could pose a conflict of interest to the executive branch of the State of Florida.

Reid and Nunn are both faculty members of the UF College of Law. Reid is a master legal skills professor and the assistant director of the Criminal Justice Center who joined the faculty in 1987 while Nunn is a professor of law and the associate director for the Center on Children and Families who joined the faculty in 1990.

A day before Nunn and Reid were to sign onto an amicus brief in the lawsuit Jones, et al.  v. Desantis, et. al., which challenged Florida Senate Bill 7066, they received an email by Rosenbury stating that College of Law faculty participating in litigation against the state of Florida is considered a potential conflict of interest. This came after they were told by Rosenbury that writing or signing onto an amicus brief as an individual law professor would not be considered an “outside activity,” and therefore did not require prior approval from the Conflicts of Interest Office, according to the complaint.

“Given the University of Florida’s pervasive and deferential adherence to the State Government’s political whims, it is unsurprising that three more Professors have joined this lawsuit,” attorneys for the professors, David A. O’Neil and Paul Donnelly, said in a statement. “We are confident that the court of law will see through the University’s motives. And we will fight until the conflicts-of-interest policy is abandoned once and for all.”

UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in an email that the university does not comment on pending litigation.

About Julia Cooper

Julia is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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