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Court dismisses professor's case

November 20, 2010

IRVINE — On Nov. 12, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a case brought by a retired UC Irvine professor, upholding a previous lower court decision.

Juan Hong, who previously taught chemical engineering at UCI, sued the UC Regents and the UCI administration after not receiving a merit raise during his eligibility period. Every three years, one-third of UCI's faculty is considered for a merit raise. Hong believed he was not given his raise due to disparaging remarks and outspoken criticism he had made about administrative actions and new hires at the university. He believed that he was protected under free speech to make the comments, which he believed contributed to the decision. UCI has not said that his remarks played a part in the decision of whether to give him a raise.

The courts decided that the employees, who are agents of the state, have immunity and are not liable due to the 11th Amendment, which protects state actors for official acts.

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"The university recognizes that protection for faculty speech, whether that speech occurs in a department meeting, within the academic personnel review process or within the Senate's Council on Academic Personnel, is crucial to a well-functioning academic environment," UCI said in a statement.

—Joanna Clay

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