BOCA RATON — A federal judge on Tuesday rejected Florida Atlantic University’s attempt to dismiss a free-speech lawsuit filed by fired professor James Tracy, best known for his controversial conspiracy claims about the Sandy Hook shooting.
It was the Boca Raton-based university’s second attempt at dismissing the high-profile lawsuit, which will now move into several months of discovery, including interrogatories, document production and depositions of the parties and witnesses, according to Tracy’s attorney, Louis Leo IV, founder of the Florida Civil Rights Coalition, which specializes in civil rights defense.
He expects the case to go to trial, although a date hasn’t yet been set.
Florida Atlantic attempted to have the case tossed, arguing it didn’t belong in federal court because Tracy was fired for breaking university policy. Tracy’s lawsuit argues he was fired in retaliation for using his personal blog to share conspiracy theories regarding domestic mass casualty incidents, which often cast a national spotlight on the former tenured professor.
“This is a case about the First Amendment right to free speech,” Judge Robin L. Rosenberg ruled in her order denying FAU’s motion to dismiss.
Tracy, who was fired in January 2016, is suing for reinstatement as a tenured professor at Florida Atlantic University and compensatory damages.
The lawsuit alleges that high-ranking university officials — including the President John Kelly, deans and members of the faculty union — conspired to fire Tracy.
The university has said Tracy, who once taught in the School of Communications, was fired for failure to submit paperwork that detailed his activities outside the university, including unpaid, online activities.
Tracy, who for years taught a course titled “Culture of Conspiracy,” was first cast into the spotlight four years ago he publicly claimed that the Sandy Hook massacre — which left 26 dead at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school on Dec. 14, 2012 — was staged. He went on to share conspiracies about other mass-casualties, such as the Boston Marathon bombing, the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C., and the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif.