AFA Announces Favorable Court Ruling for Dr. Michael Joyner

Jul 8, 2024 | Press Release

AFA Announces Favorable Court Ruling for Dr. Michael Joyner

Court Denied Most of the Mayo Clinic’s Motion to Dismiss Joyner’s Claims

PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance today announced a court ruling in favor of Dr. Michael Joyner in his case against the Mayo Clinic, which the AFA is funding and supporting. The District Court in the state of Minnesota ruled that four out of Dr. Joyner’s five claims, including his claims for breach of contract and retaliation, will be proceeding against the Mayo Clinic and two of its leaders. 

The ruling came in response to a March hearing in which the Mayo Clinic filed a motion to dismiss Dr. Joyner’s claims that it had violated its contractual obligations by punishing him over comments he made to press about sex-specific differences in sports performance and about the use of convalescent plasma in the treatment of COVID-19. Dr. Joyner’s ability to participate in interviews and speak freely to the press about his research have been limited and restrained since the controversy started. 

“We’re thrilled that Dr. Joyner’s case is moving forward,” said Lucas Morel, chair of the AFA’s Academic Committee. “It is imperative that scientists and medical professionals be free to communicate their findings to the world. For an academic institution to coerce an individual to fall in line with political orthodoxy at the expense of their academic integrity is an affront to not only the scientific process, but also with the norms of higher education that allow for free inquiry.” 

In a setback for the rights of Mayo employees, the court did dismiss Dr. Joyner’s claim that Mayo’s academic freedom policy contractually obligated Mayo to protect his right to free speech. However, the court held that other Mayo policies – such as the appeals policy Mayo was supposed to follow when Dr. Joyner appealed his unjust discipline – did create contractual obligations that Mayo may have breached. The court also held that Dr. Joyner’s department chair, Dr. Carlos Mantilla, may have acted with malice and bad faith when he disciplined Dr. Joyner shortly after criticizing an interview he gave to CNN. These rulings pave the way for Dr. Joyner to hold Mayo accountable for punishing him for his speech, despite the ruling on the academic freedom policy. 

“Mayo’s only victory in yesterday’s ruling was in fact its greatest loss,” said Kellie Miller, one of Dr. Joyner’s attorneys from Allen Harris Law. “Mayo argued that their promises of academic freedom are, in fact, meaningless. This is not an argument any real educational institution should ever want to win or make. The public should be aware that now, when a doctor at Mayo speaks, their statements may not represent their honest scientific opinion, but rather a curated statement serving Mayo’s institutional interests. That Mayo even made this argument highlights the need for real changes at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Joyner looks forward to his opportunity to be a part of that change.”

Additional Resources:
The Academic Freedom Alliance is a diverse alliance of college and university faculty members who are dedicated to upholding the principles of academic freedom and professorial free speech. These principles are central to the mission of our institutions of higher education for the pursuit of truth and knowledge. The AFA is committed to defending universal principles of academic freedom and will come to the assistance of professors regardless of their individual views. As always, the AFA is not concerned with the substance or merits of a professor’s ideas but with the principle that universities should be places that tolerate controversial ideas and allow free inquiry and debate, not public opinion or political pressure, to separate error from truth.

Learn More About the Academic Freedom Alliance

No one, at any academic institution, should fear suppression or retaliation for speaking out publicly in any form. We encourage you to join the movement in supporting the flourishing of intellectual life and the pursuit of knowledge and truth at institutions of higher learning.