BOT files Al-Arian counter argument

The USF Board of Trustees filed its response Monday to Sami Al-Arian’s request to have his case dismissed or moved from state to federal court.

Al-Arian asked for federal jurisdiction two weeks ago, claiming that issues of academic freedom and the First Amendment do not follow under the jurisdiction of the state court.

USF’s 15-page response cites several precedents, including a 1986 decision.

“The mere presence of a federal issue in a state cause of action does not automatically confer federal question jurisdiction,” the decision said.

The university’s counter-argument also presented reasons why Al-Arian’s case should not be dismissed.

R. B. Friedlander, interim general counsel at USF, said now that the university has filed its response, a decision will be reached in federal court. She said once Al-Arian requested federal jurisdiction, the law states that the decision as to where the case will be heard must be made by a federal judge. Friedlander said the judge in this case is Susan Bucklew.

Bucklew served on the state circuit court before being appointed in 1994 to the Middle Florida federal bench, which is in Tampa.

Bucklew’s high-publicity cases have included the trial of a former Soviet spy and the city of Tampa complaint against the popular Web site, VoyeurDorm.

As for when the decision on the current motions could come, Friedlander said at this point, it’s a guessing game.

“There will not be anything in the next few days,” Friedlander said. “It could be as early as a week or (up to) a month.”

Friedlander said if Bucklew chooses to keep the issue in federal court, the discovery phase, in which both sides begin to gather information, will begin. At that time, Friedlander said the university will call Al-Arian for deposition.

After discovery, Friedlander said a trial date will be set.

If Bucklew decides to remand the case to the state court, Friedlander said the university will go before the state judge and ask to move forward with discovery.

And in the event that Bucklew should decide to dismiss the case outright, Friedlander said the university will have to decide whether to appeal.

As for when the case could see its day in court, Friedlander said that is “long down the road.”

Friedlander said the case will be argued either in 2003 or early 2004.