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September 07, 2008 

Federal Judge Overturns Florida's Travel Act

A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida recently struck down Florida’s "Act to Travel to Terrorist States" (the "Travel Act") -- the state legislature’s effort to prohibit academic -related travel to countries labeled as terrorist states by the U.S. State Department, including Cuba.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed the lawsuit in June 2006 on behalf of Florida International University’s Faculty Senate and six professors at several Florida universities challenging the law enacted by the legislature in 2006.

In Faculty Senate FIU et al., v. Winn et al., Judge Patricia A. Seitz ruled that the portion of the Florida law prohibiting the use of private and non-state funds for such trips was unconstitutional, citing precedent set in a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring a Massachusetts law that prohibited firms doing business with Myanmar (Burma) from obtaining state contracts. The Burma Law was challenged by the National Foreign Trade Council, and unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court as a violation of Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

“The Courts have been clear, states and local governments should not be in the business of setting foreign policy,” said Jake Colvin, NFTC Vice President for Global Trade Issues. “Florida’s attempt to undermine the ability of academic institutions to pursue their mission through international travel was not only unconstitutional but misguided. The United States should encourage international travel at every turn, particularly to places like Cuba where ordinary Americans would be superb ambassadors of freedom and democracy.”

The PDF version of the decision can be found here.

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