Title: Brechner report
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090012/00029
 Material Information
Title: Brechner report
Series Title: Brechner report
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, College of Journalism and communications, University of Florida
Publisher: Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: May 2002
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090012
Volume ID: VID00029
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Volume 26, Number 5 U A monthly report of mass media law in Florida
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom of In,,.i .. a, U College ofJournalism and Communications U University of Florida
May 2002

Group says administration is stalling
WASHINGTON Judicial Watch according to Larry Klayman, chairman
accused the Bush administration of of Judicial Watch.
stonewalling in attempts to keep details He characterized omissions and
about Vice President Dick Cheney's edits as "excessive." However, a Justice
energy task force secret. The Department spokesperson
Department of Energy, the A CS said the edits were normal
Department of Agriculture, AE J and within the guidelines of
the Department of the CS the Act.
Interior, the Environmental RECORDS So far, the papers turned

Protection Agency and the
White House Office of Management and
Budget were among those ordered to
hand over documents under a Freedom
of Information Act request in April
2001. Agencies finally released
thousands of pages of heavily edited
material on March 25.
"What we have found is a systematic
effort not to produce documents,"

over have not mentioned
Ken Lay or any other Enron executives,
although Enron representatives
reportedly had six meetings with the
task force. The Judicial Watch suit is
unrelated to the ongoing lawsuit by the
Government Accounting Office, which
is suing to get a list of industry officials
who met with Vice President Cheney's
taskforce. (3/26/02)

School records case to be retried

Webb, the first elected official jailed in
Florida for violations of the state's open
records law, has been granted a new
trial. At issue is whether or not she knew
the documents she refused to turn over
were public records.
In May 1999, Escambia County Judge
Patricia Kinsey sentenced Webb to 11
months and 15 days in jail. She later
suspended all but 30 days of the

sentence. County Judge William White
later overturned Webb's conviction. The
1st District Court of Appeal overruled
White, and the Florida Supreme Court
refused to hear the case. The case is now
back in White's court.
The prosecution requested that White
recuse himself from the case, alleging
that in overturning her conviction the
judge had become an advocate for the
defendant. The judge refused. (3/16/02)

Police mug shots not public records

Judge Frederick B. Tygart said an
exemption to the Florida public records
law that prevents disclosure of home
addresses, phone numbers, Social
Security numbers and photos of active
and former law enforcement officers
also exempts the release of mug shots
of officers who have been arrested.
The Fraternal Order of Police sued
when the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office
began releasing mug shots of arrested

officers in 2000. The Florida Times-
Union of Jacksonville joined the lawsuit
on the side of the Sheriff's office after
the police union sued.
The law that exempts the records of
police officer information from the
public records also exempts similar
information about state child welfare
workers, child support enforcement
officers, certified firefighters and
personnel officials of local government
agencies. (1/1/02-1/2/02)

Judge says terrorism

hearings public
DETROIT A federal district judge
in Detroit has ruled that it is
unconstitutional to hold secret
immigration proceedings for Arabs
detained since Sept. 11.
A suit was filed by the American Civil
Liberties Union, in conjunction with
Rep. John Conyers Jr., the Detroit News
and the Metro Times, in response to the
press and
being COURTS
away from the deportation hearings of
Rabih Haddad, a Muslim leader from
Ann Arbor, Mich. Haddad is the
cofounder of a charity with suspected
ties to terrorist organizations. Haddad's
lawyers say that the secrecy surrounding
the hearings have resulted in an
inaccurate portrayal of him.
"Openness is necessary for the public
to maintain confidence in the value and
soundness of the government's actions,"
according to Judge Nancy G. Edmunds'
"Our system of democracy depends
on openness. Secrecy breeds fear,
distress and resentment. We need faith
and confidence that people won't be
railroaded," said Kary Moss, executive
director of the ACLU's Michigan
This is the first decision in a federal
court dealing with the legality of the
Justice Department's attempts to keep
secret the proceedings of people
detained in relation to the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks. A New Jersey state
judge ruled that New Jersey law does not
allow the names of those being held in
prison to be kept secret.
Is is unclear whether or not the
government will appeal the decision,
which could have consequences for
other detainee hearings across the
nation. (4/4/02)


Withheld records cost Miami consulting firm $331,000

MIAMI Dade Aviation Consultants,
a major consultant for Miami
International Airport's $5.4 billion
expansion, was ordered by the 3rd
District Court of Appeal to pay
$331,000 in legal fees to The Miami
Herald, after forcing the newspaper to
sue for access to public records.
The records that DAC sought to keep
secret were related to payments to
lobbyists who helped the consortium
win the airport expansion contract. DAC,
which consists of eight companies that

joined together to form a public entity,
had argued that the funds used to pay the
lobbyists came directly from the eight
companies, and not the consulting group,
and were therefore private. In October,
the 3rd District found that the payment
records were public and must be
In issuing the unanimous opinion,
Chief Appellate Judge Alan Schwartz
said the consortium presented "one
flimsy and indeed transparent excuse
after another in defense of its position:

a pattern of conduct which amounted to
the very definition of stonewalling."
Additionally, the judge suggested that
the consulting firm's legal defense
might itself have been criminal, since
the company attempted to create a false
basis for a legal opinion.
The records sought by the newspaper
showed that the consortium had paid
more than $500,000 to lobbyists, in
addition to thousands spent on political
campaigns, while it tried to keep its
county contracts. (3/7/02)

New court records FIRST AMENDMENT

policy outlined
TALLAHASSEE- The Florida State
Supreme Court has amended the Rules
of Judicial Administration, affirming
that people seeking public records from
the courts in Florida do not need to
explain why they want the records. The
court's ruling adopts the
recommendations of an advisory panel
created two years ago to determine how
Florida's courts should handle public
records issues. Requests for the records
must still to be made in writing. Public
records requests for the legislative and
executive branches do not need to be
made in writing. (3/8/02)

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Copies of case opinions, Florida
Attorney General opinions, or
!s., i',lt,,i reported in any issue as
"on file" may be obtained upon
request from the Brechner Center for
Freedom of Information, College of
Journalism and Communications,
3208 Weimer Hall, P.O. Box 118400,
University of Florida, Gainesville,
FL 32611-8400, (352) 392-2273.

Rabbi fights for home prayer meetings
ORLANDO Rabbi Joseph Konikov counted more than 370 vehicles and 500
filed suit in federal court, challenging people at the rabbi's house within a
an order by the Orange County Code seven-week span. Neighbors say parking
Enforcement Board to stop holding a on lawns and traffic jams have become a
weekly prayer meeting, or "minyan" in problem.
his home. The Enforcement Board gave "Zoning is not some magic wand the
the rabbi 60 days to stop the meetings. government can just waive to trample
After that, he will be fined $50 per day core fundamental rights. If the county
if people gather in his home for prayers. thinks they have a traffic and parking
According to the Enforcement Board, issue, then the county needs to draft a
the Orange County Zoning Code forbids law that addresses traffic and parking -
"operation of religious organizations" or not one which regulates religious speech
"any function related to synagogues or and religious assembly in private
church services" in residential zones, homes," said John Stemberger, an
Orange County investigators say they attorney for Rabbi Konikov. (3/27/02)

ATHEIST plate called "objectionable"

Department of Highway Safety and
Motor Vehicles wants to cancel a
license plate that reads ATHEIST, which
a Gainesville man has had registered for
16 years. The department characterized
the tag as "obscene or objectionable,"
and informed Steven Miles that the tag
must be canceled. This places the tag
among a list of expressions banned on
license plates in Florida, including
epithets, expletives and words for
certain suggestive body parts. The
review was prompted by a complaint
signed by ten people.
While officials take great pains to
keep offensive personalized plates off
the road, consulting sources as varied as
medical textbooks and the Internet to
clear new personal tags, it is rare for
one to be pulled after it has been issued.
"It's kind of disconcerting to know that
the United States is based on freedom of

expression, yet in actuality, it's quite
restrictive," noted Miles.
Miles, who is an electrical engineer
at the University of Florida, believes
that the attempt to revoke his tag
directly infringes on his First
Amendment rights. He has refused to
mail back the tag to the DMV.
This is not the first time the
expressive license tag has caused
trouble for Miles. He has had a wrench
thrown at him over the plate, and has
even had it stolen from the car and
hidden in the woods.
Many citizens use personalized
license plates as a form of expression.
Among the tags currently accepted by
the Florida DMV are GOD4ALL and
ALL4GOD. DMV spokesperson Robert
Sanchez said that letters in support of
Miles, and his ATHEIST plate have
prompted a review of the issue.

2 The Brechner Report May 2002


Incoming Marco Island councilman shuns sunshine

MARCO ISLAND John Arceri ran
unopposed for Marco Island City
Council. So when the filing period for
the job ended on Jan. 22, he was
essentially "elected," even though he did
not take office until March. Arceri
reportedly used the time between his
"election" and his swearing in to meet
with key members of the city
government out of the sunshine.

While the meetings are technically
legal, according to City Attorney Ken
Cuyler, there is concern among some
freedom of information advocates that
they may have violated the spirit of the
state's strict government-in-the-
sunshine laws. Council candidate Vickie
Kelber said that as an incoming
councilman, "he has to be alert to even
the appearance of sunshine violations."

Others are not as concerned.
Arceri met with members of the city
council, and also had a meeting with City
Manager Bill Moss, Council Chairman
Glenn Tucker and an attorney for Florida
Governmental Utility Authority to
discuss the city's proposed purchase of
Florida Water Services, a deal on which
Arceri fucntions as Marco Island's
negotiator. (3/12/02)

Speaker bars critical reporter from floor Fees awarded to

TALLAHASSEE Florida House unqualified for her position. Gregory,
Speaker Tom Feeney (R-Oviedo) banned 27, holds a $55,644-a-year position,
Shirish Date, a reporter for The Palm without the requisite bachelor's degree
Beach Post, from the House floor for or the three years of technical
the remainder background
of the session NEWSGATHER TXT required by the
because of NEWS GAT1lHERJ N state's official
what Feeney job
characterized as "offending" and description. Date also reported that
"frightening" conduct after a press Gregory tried to delete e-mails about
conference, state and campaign business from her
However, Edward Sears, editor of computer after reporters requested
The Palm Beach Post, believes the ban them. The e-mails indicated Gregory
is more related to an earlier story about used her computer to arrange Feeney's
Feeney legislative aide Bridgette campaign appearances, which may
Gregory that suggested she was violate ethics rules. (3/7/02; 3/21/02)

Supreme Court won't hear Leggett appeal
WASHINGTON- The U.S. Supreme working on a book about the murder of
Court will not hear an appeal in the case Doris Angleton, a Houston socialite,
of Vanessa Leggett, the Texas writer whose husband Robert was acquitted of
who spent more than five months in jail the crime. New evidence led a federal
for refusing to turn over notes to a grand jury to reopen the case in 2000,
federal grand jury. Leggett's attorneys and prosecutors subpoenaed Leggett's
asked the Court to use her case to extend notes. She refused, and was jailed until
protection for writers and reporters under the grand jury's term expired.
the First Amendment. The Court offered According to her attorney, Michael
no comment in turning down the request. DeGeurin, Leggett "faces a substantial
Leggett, a novice crime writer, was threat of future incarceration." (4/15/02)

Monroe citizens group
KEY LARGO Monroe County must
pay $26,285 in legal fees to a local
citizens group that successfully fought a
sunshine lawsuit. The dispute stemmed
from the violation of open meetings
laws during the awarding of a contract to
build a sewer system on Key Largo.
Last year, Circuit Judge Sandra
Taylor voided the contract between the
Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority and
Ogden Water Systems, saying that open
government laws had been broken during
the selection process. Chief Circuit
Judge Richard Payne assessed the fees.
Attorney John Jabro aided the
citizens group, Keys Citizens For
Responsible Government, in their suit.
Monroe County Attorney Jim Hendrick
said the county plans to challenge the
ruling. (2/29/02)

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The Brechner Report May 2002 3

A new source for state-by-state access information

Freedom of information advocates have a new
and potent source for information about state laws,
now that The Marion Brechner Citizen Access
Project is up and running at
www.citizenaccess.org. The Marion Brechner
Citizen Access Project is a groundbreaking effort
The to rate access
Back Page to public Bill C
records and meetings
By Bill Chamberlin on a state-by-state
basis. The site's
detailed analysis and unique rating system will provide
payoffs for journalists, media lawyers, scholars, citizen
groups, and policy makers for decades to come.
Mrs. Brechner, an Orlando broadcasting executive with
an abiding interest in freedom of information issues,
provided a gift of $600,000 to the University of Florida that
was matched with $400,000 from the state. The money
provides an endowment for a research team, office help,
and website and database experts, most of whom are
graduate students.
Mrs. Brechner's commitment to access is now bearing
fruit, as you can see online the beginnings of a rating
system for access to meetings and access to records in all
50 states. The categories right now are limited to redaction
and to computer records issues. But the ratings on state
constitutions, definitions, and procedures for public records
will come soon.
A visitor to www.citizenaccess.org is able to see
summaries and ratings of all state laws that have been
processed, a comparison to another state's laws, and a
comparison to the laws of every state. The site also
provides direct hyperlinks to the individual state laws and
state access audits that have been completed, as well as
background information on the laws of every state.
The researchers, all with law school background, search
the state laws for any provisions relevant to access. They


arrange them in pertinent categories, write
summaries that can be read by lay professionals,
and send them to a board of experts on freedom of
information. The Sunshine Review Board rates
each of the constitutional, statutory, or case law
summaries on a scale of 7 to 1, with a 7
representing a law that most facilitates access and
mberlin a 1 representing a legal provision that least
facilitates access. Advisory board members include
veteran journalists, access advocates, a state government
access expert, a law professor, a media law professor, the
general counsel of the ASNE, and representatives of the
American Library Association and the League of Women
Anyone who knows about the complications of access
laws knows this is a tremendous undertaking and will not be
completed overnight. However, we have designed the
project so that you will see each category as it is completed,
and we will be continuously putting information on line, now
that we have completed the database and Web page
construction. One warning for the moment: I haven't
written the help page yet, so anyone who needs guidance
to get around should send me an e-mail or give me a call.
We also have a feedback page, and we hope access
advocates will help us be responsive to current legal issues.
The Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project makes it
possible for you to find out what your state law is, find out
how experts rate it, and see the language of all state laws.
Dean Terry Hynes, Marion Brechner and I hope this will
revolutionize the reporting and scholarship on access issues.
We hope it will make it easier to write good law and harder
to write embarrassingly bad law. We hope the ratings will
help make access better understood and more frequently

Bill Chamberlin, the director of the Marion Brechner Citizen
Access Project, also is the Joseph L. Brechner Eminent Scholar
of Mass Communications and an attilirat professor of the UF
College of Law.

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