On Monday, a federal jury denied a lawsuit by former professor and conspiracy theorist who alleged Florida Atlantic University terminated him for his controversial writings on his blog.
James Tracy claimed the university violated his First Amendment Rights by firing him for his viewpoints. The university has denied Tracy’s accusation from the beginning and said they fired him for failing to follow university rules, like filing reports about outside activities. Florida Atlantic University officials also claimed Tracy’s blog writing interfered with his duties at the university.
While the former professor in the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies has always posted controversial blogs, people raised their eyebrows when he claimed that Sandy Hook Massacre in 2012 never happened.
The parents of a child who was killed in the massacre raise awareness of Tracy’s blog said that he “is among those who have personally sought to cause our family pain and anguish by publicly demonizing our attempts to keep cherished photos of our slain son from falling into the hands of conspiracy theorists.”
Florida Atlantic University lawyers said Tracy “was repeatedly warned that this failure to follow policy would result in disciplinary action, including possible termination,” and that his “belligerent,rebellious conduct was deliberate and intentional.”
Tracy’s lawyer, Louis Leo IV, insisted that the university fired him because they didn’t feel comfortable with his views.
“They used the policy because they didn’t like what the plaintiff was saying,” he said. “This policy became a vessel to trample on his constitutional rights.”
The trial began Nov. 29 and included testimony from Tracy and Florida Atlantic University officials. Tracy’s attorneys positioned the case about academic freedom while university officials argued that it revolved about a professor who refused to follow the rules.
The former professor’s lawyers argued in court that Florida Atlantic University officials didn’t like his viewpoints and retaliated against him.
G. Joseph Curley, one of the attorneys who represented the university, told the jury that Tracy’s termination was due to him not following university rules about disclosing outside activities and earnings. He said that the former professor doesn’t play by the rules and that doesn’t at a large institution like Florida Atlantic University.
Curley said that Tracy broke an agreement he made with his bosses that he would separate his personal writings from his university position and make it clear that what he wrote on his blogs didn’t reflect the university’s position. He added that Tracy used the school as a platform for his personal writings and that’s not what it’s supposed to be about.
The jury foreman said the jury ruled against Tracy because they felt there was not enough evidence to choose his side.
It did seem like FAU inconsistently enforced some policies, and there was some poor communication at times. But Professor Tracy is a smart guy, and he knew what they wanted him to do,” the juror added.