NCFF seeks to improve New College in a manner that avoids unethical, improper or illegal actions by the State, the Board of Governors, the Board of Trustees, or the Administration that will harm the mission and future of the college. We believe that the most effective way of keeping these actors accountable is to settle our disputes in the court of law.
We have successfully filed one complaint and corresponding injunction against the state of Florida in an attempt to fight SB266, which was signed into law earlier this year. We will be continuing to fight unjust legislation with further complaints, so we encourage you to become a member as to keep apprised of our most recent actions.
We hope to halt cruel and unjust legislation which harms the health of our democracy, our state's university system, and the students and professors who deserve to learn and teach without unscrupulous interference from the state. We also intend to send a message to the state and its legislators, that they cannot sign irresponsible legislation into law with impunity.
NCFF Files Federal First Amendment Lawsuit Against the State of Florida Over Free Speech (SB266)
Since the Scopes monkey trial in the 1920s, it has been rare for a state legislature to outlaw the teaching of thoughts, concepts and ideas which are viewed by scientists, philosophers and academicians as being within the legitimate scope of academic inquiry.
However, the Florida Legislature has done just that. With the passage of Senate Bill 266 (SB266), the state has adopted as law a policy whose goal is to prohibit the dissemination of certain ideas.
In response, NCF Freedom has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Florida Board of Governors of the State University System, and the Board of Trustees at New College of Florida. “NCF Freedom is committed to improving New College through a collaborative process that complies with constitutional principles,” says NCF Freedom President Jono Miller. “We intend to act when we see academic freedom, shared governance, or student agency threatened.”
The suit contends that SB266 creates a chill on free speech on the New College campus (and at every other public university in Florida) by censoring the teaching of certain “disfavored” topics and by prohibiting them outright - specifically, any teaching, discussion, and open debate around topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion, institutional bias, and similar ideas.
In addition, as the Complaint points out, SB266 further denies state-supported funding to any institution which offers classes that touch on any of the politically “disfavored” subjects that advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion or “social activism”.
The Complaint underscores how SB266 infringes directly on academic freedoms at New College by quashing the right to free speech and debate on many topics of interest or concern and directly restricts professors at New College and their ability to teach their students within the established curriculum of the College.
Furthermore, SB266 directly scales back protections of faculty tenure and increases the chilling effect of censorship on any professor eligible for tenure.
As the Complaint clearly states, “The marketplace of ideas cannot thrive if politicians simply declare a significant number of ideas to be off-limits for discussion or debate in colleges and universities.”
The suit asks the court to declare SB266 unconstitutional because it imposes content and viewpoint restrictions on speech in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. If successful, this complaint will protect all of the the public universities and colleges in Florida from the restrictions on speech in SB266.
NCFF Files Injunction to Federal Lawsuit Against the State of Florida Over Free Speech (SB266)
On August 29, attorneys for NCF Freedom (NCFF) filed a motion that asks the Federal Court to order the State of Florida to block enforcement of SB 266, which censors a wide variety of protected speech on college campuses.
“The impact of SB 266 on academic freedom is exceptionally severe," says Jono Miller, President of NCF Freedom, "the law is clearly unconstitutional."
NCFF has filed this preliminary injunction to prohibit enforcement of SB 266 immediately instead of waiting for the outcome of any trial in this case to prevent further hasty, rapid, unconstitutional changes at New College of Florida, as well as all of Florida’s colleges and universities.
NCFF expects Judge Walker to set this Motion for a hearing in the coming weeks.
In his own words:
I am one of those rare attorneys who gets to live his dreams. I have always been passionate about free speech - literally, for as long as I can remember. My personal politics are decidedly progressive, but I take speech cases from across the political divide; the First Amendment is my ultimate client.
I started as a general civil practitioner and, over the course of 37 years, have handled just about every case imaginable from evictions to divorces to probate to corporate transactions to real estate closings. Starting in 1991, I started taking on First Amendment cases (for Cafe Risque in Micanopy). Since about 2005, First Amendment cases have occupied the bulk of my practice.
Almost all of that practice is in the Federal Courts. I have handled cases throughout the Southeast (Fl, Ga, Al, La, S.C., N.C.), California, Michigan, Colorado, and Wyoming. Curiously, I have never argued a case before the Florida Supreme Court, but I won one before the Arkansas Supreme Court: 40 Retail Corp. v. City of Clarksville, 2012 Ark. 422, 424 S.W.3d 823 (2012)
I am a former President and current Board Member of the First Amendment Lawyers Association - like the name says, a national organization of attorneys actively litigating First Amendment cases.
I am on the amicus committee for FALA having been primary author in our filing in Project Veritas v. New York Times Co., 74 Misc. 3d 515, 161 N.Y.S.3d 700 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2021).
I have also handled cases involving political demonstrations, parades and causes. I wrote a major part of the brief and attended oral argument as one of three attorneys in the U.S. Supreme Court case of: Thomas v. Chicago Park Dist., 534 U.S. 316, 122 S. Ct. 775 (2002).
And, of course, I am co-counsel in the Stop WOKE Act litigation, now before the 11th Circuit: Pernell v. Fla. Bd. of Governors of State Univ. Sys., F.Supp.3d , 2022 WL 16985720 (N.D. Fla. Nov. 17, 2022).
But hardly any of that compares to our New College case!