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Bruins in Paris

Former UCLA researcher James Enstrom’s lawsuit proceeds


April 2, 2013 12:50 a.m.

A former UCLA researcher’s lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California will now move forward, after a federal district judge recently rejected the regents’ motion to dismiss the case.

In June, James Enstrom, a former non-tenured faculty researcher in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, filed a federal lawsuit against the University of California and several UCLA administrators, alleging he was unlawfully dismissed from his position at UCLA.

Enstrom’s lawsuit also claimed that the university discriminated against Enstrom because of his controversial research regarding air pollution and secondhand smoke.

On March 18, a district judge dismissed Chancellor Gene Block and UC President Mark Yudof from the case, though the UC Regents and a few UCLA administrators are still named as defendants in the case, according to court documents.

Enstrom was let go from his position at UCLA because his research did not align with the department mission and failed to reach funding requirements, according to his layoff notice from the environmental health sciences department chair Richard Jackson.

His research on fine particulate matter, a form of air pollution, was controversial. In particular, his suggestions that California needs to be held to different air standards than other places in the country, according to Daily Bruin archives.

In the lawsuit, Enstrom claimed that he was retaliated against for expressing his free speech on matters of public concern, including alleged unethical practices at the California Air Resources Board.

The university has since denied Enstrom’s allegations.

Enstrom had a full hearing as part of his grievance process and was relieved of his appointment in June 2012, according to a university statement.

He had held the position for about 35 years, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Enstrom’s treatment was so egregious that UCLA’s Academic Freedom Committee … expressed unanimous concern about his treatment,” said Enstrom’s lawyer David French in a blog post.

Having overcome the university’s motions to dismiss Enstrom’s claims, the case will now proceed in court.

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