Tracy v. Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees, No. 18-10173 (11th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit against the University and others alleging that the parties' collective bargaining agreements' (CBA) "Conflict of Interest/Outside Activities" policy was unconstitutionally vague, that his termination breached the CBA, and that the University had used his insubordination as a pretext for First Amendment retaliation. Plaintiff's action stemmed from the University's termination of plaintiff after he attracted national news media attention for publicly questioning whether the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting had in fact occurred.
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment rulings and its denial of plaintiff's post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's failure to exhaust the CBA's mandatory grievance-and-arbitration procedures barred his claim that the University breached the CBA by firing him. Although the court affirmed the district court on the constitutional claims, the court applied a different analysis. Without deciding the issue, the court assumed for the purposes of this appeal that plaintiff could constitutionally challenge the Policy on vagueness grounds. The court held that plaintiff's vagueness challenge failed on the merits, and his facial and as-applied First Amendment challenges to the Policy's reporting requirement failed. Furthermore, plaintiff's challenge to the Policy's conflict-of-interest provision failed on the merits. Because plaintiff's constitutional challenges failed, his declaratory judgment claim based on the same grounds also failed. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the Faculty Senate meeting transcript.