Volume 30, Number 10 i A monthly report of mass media law in Florida
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information U College of Journalism and Communications U University of Florida
Judge: Paper can't publish story
NAPLES The Naples Daily News
is fighting a judge's order not to publish
stories on a case involving a defendant
charged with nearly two dozen felonies.
Circuit Judge Frank Baker banned
the publication of the defendant's name,
i fr 1
available in public records.
Both the prosecutor and defense
attorney requested the pre-publication
ban, citing concerns for the safety of the
defendant and undercover law enforcement
agents, according to the Daily News.
uCateis ul t iv e ior a p ea No urt uter pIiu ceI pI cuI gs
agreement involving the P R IO R have occurred since the
defendant's cooperation with details were published.
law enforcement authorities. RESTRAINT The criminal case involve
When Baker refused to a man arrested last Decemb
lift the ban, the Daily News decided on charges including trafficking cocaine
to publish details of the case already and operating a chop shop.
Secret docket investigations lead
to consideration of new rules
MIAMI In the wake of several
news stories about secret dockets and
sealed cases, the Florida Supreme Court
is poised to adopt new rules for sealing
Florida Supreme Court justices were
shocked when they read the articles,
according to Chief Justice Fred Lewis.
"Their chins hit the table," Lewis said.
cases. I ne r lonaa Associatlon o01 ourt
The issue first drew attention in Clerks and Comptrollers submitted
Broward County, where more proposed rules to the
than 400 civil cases have been C T U RT S justices, which would
sealed since 1989. Current V require judges to hold a
rules do not require a hearing hearing and give advance
prior to sealing a case. public notice prior to sealing a case.
Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Palm The Court plans to adopt new rules
Beach and Sarasota counties also have once the public is given an opportunity
been the subject of reports of sealed to comment, Lewis said. "We're putting
cases, some of which were kept off court this one on the front burner because of the
dockets as well. nature of what's happening," Lewis said.
Council members face charges
SEBASTIAN Two city council
members face noncriminal charges for
violating the Sunshine Law. Andrea Coy
and Sal Neglia could face
fines of up to $500 each A C C
and potential liability for
attorney's fees. MEETI
"They talked about an
issue that could foreseeably come before
the (council) for action outside of a
public meeting," Assistant State Attorney
Chris Taylor said.
At a Jan. 25 televised council meeting,
Neglia said he recently called Coy to
S discuss a dispute between
S SS tennis players and lawn bowlers
N Ss over the use of tennis courts.
4GS The council later agreed
to ask the city manager to
review whether the lawn bowlers should
be allowed to use the courts. Sebastian
officials decided to allow the use.
TALLAHASSEE The Pensacola
News Journal appealed an $18 million
verdict against the paper in a false light
Businessman Joe Anderson won the
suit based on a story published in 1998
about his wife's death.
Lawyers for the News Journal and
its parent company, Gannett, argued
that Anderson did not prove the
information published in the story was
The article said Anderson shot and
killed his wife. Two sentences later, it
determined a hunting accident.
"What they said was literally true in
every paragraph, but they used the truth
to create a false impression and the
false impression was that Mr. Anderson
murdered his wife," Bruce Rogow, an
attorney for Anderson, said.
Gannett lawyers argued that other
state courts have ruled that falsity is
essential to support a false light claim.
First District Court of Appeal Judge
Philip J. Padovan expressed concern
about Florida's false light statute during
"Do you think there's some
danger in it that we're going to hold
newspapers and media outlets liable
now for impressions that they've
created?" Padovan said. "I mean where
would that stop?"
The $18.28 million verdict was for
actual damages Anderson claimed he
suffered when state regulators delayed
permits for a cement plant he wanted to
build, according to the News Journal.
Candidate's lawsuit remains sealed before election
SARASOTA A sealed lawsuit
involving a Republican candidate for
Congress remained out of public view
prior to a Sept. 5 primary election. Vern
Buchanan won the primary election in the
13t Congressional District.
Circuit Judge Nancy Donnellan ruled
Sept. 1 that although the media and the
public have a right to determine whether
the lawsuit was properly sealed, an
evidentiary hearing would be required.
The decision prevented the court
documents from being released prior to
MIAMI Lawyers for Donald Trump
were scolded and given 10 minutes to
tell a circuit judge the names of reporters
they leaked information to regarding a
subpoena against Broward Sheriff Ken
Trump's suit alleges his former friend,
Visit The Brechner Center's
Web site for more information
about media law in Florida.
You can find:
How Florida lawmakers
voted on open government laws
in recent years.
A history of cases in which
public officials were convicted
of criminal or civil charges
under the Public Records or
Open Meetings laws.
A listing of cases in which
plaintiffs obtained attorney's
fees in legal actions filed under
Florida's Open Meetings or
Public Records laws.
Past copies of The Brechner
Report, along with a topical
The 2006 Citizen Guide
to open government laws in
Sample public records
the primary election.
Media attorney Carol Jean LoCicero
argued that an evidentiary hearing should
not be required, since one did not take
place at the time the case was sealed,
according to The Bradenton Herald
"It's a shame the public won't see it
before (the primary election)," LoCicero
said. "We will make every effort to
have it before the general election in
The lawsuit related to Buchanan's
involvement in developing the Sarasota
BLOOMINGDALE A Tampa area
man was ordered off a public bus for
taking photos on the bus. Norbert Gobin
was not taking photos at the time he was
asked to leave, according to The Brandon
Gobin rides the bus to and from his
job at MacDill Air Force Base. He also
publishes an electronic newsletter, "Bus-
Chat," about transportation issues.
For the past four years, Gobin has
sent the newsletter to about 300 riders
Ritz-Carlton. The other parties to the suit
agreed to release the information, but
attorneys for Buchanan objected to the
Tramm Hudson, one of Buchanan's
Republican opponents, criticized Buchanan
for fighting to keep the lawsuit sealed
despite assurances that he had nothing to
Buchanan's campaign said it fought the
release of the lawsuit in order to prevent
more "baseless" attacks by Hudson,
according to The Herald.
reporters' names in Trump trial
Richard T. Fields, and developers of the the hearing. It sought testimony and records
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino from Jenne regarding his interactions
cheated him out of a lucrative contract, with Fields, the casino developers, or the
Trump's lawyers gave Circuit Judge Seminole's security firm.
Jeffrey Streitfeld the names of two Jenne had been working as a paid
reporters at the Aug. 24 hearing. consultant for the security firm, according to
The subpoena was withdrawn during The Miami Herald.
Documents released, then
sealed in Ocala murder case
OCALA- A circuit judge temporarily
sealed public documents in the case of a
man accused of murdering two college
students in the Ocala National Forest.
For 60 days, documents related to
Leo Boatman's case will be closed so
that Boatman's attorney can review the
documents and decide if he will argue
against the release of any items.
The Ocala Star-Banner's attorney, Rachel
Fugate, agreed with a temporary closure, but
asked that all materials be released once a
jury is sworn in.
Circuit Judge Sue Robbins previously
released portions of Boatman's statements to
police at the request of the Star-Banner.
on his route and senior staff at Hillsborough
Area Regional Transit Authority (HART).
Both Gobin and HART spokesperson Jill
Cappadoro suggested the removal may have
occurred because of security concerns on the
MacDill bus line.
Cappadoro said HART has no policy
allowing or prohibiting taking photos on
Gobin said he tells passengers before he
is going to take a photo and gives them the
option to turn away.
2 The Brechner Report U October 2006
Newsletter publisher removed
from bus for taking photographs
ACCESS MEETINGS CONTINUED
DELTONA- The State Attorney's
Office won't pursue charges stemming
from a private tour of the city by City
Commissioner Janet Deyette, Mayor
Dennis Mulder and four candidates for
State Attorney's Office spokeswoman
Linda Pruitt said there was not sufficient
evidence to find Deyette violated the
A complaint against Deyette was filed
in May by Tammy Horn, daughter of a
former commissioner who was recently
defeated by Mulder, according to The
Deyette denied discussing city
business during the van tour. But two
of the candidates told The Sentinel that
topics discussed during the tour included
economic development and road projects.
Mulder said he was not surprised by
the outcome of the probe.
"I don't think it's a problem until
someone crosses the line," Mulder said.
"I do agree that it causes you to take a
hard look at what you do. I learned to be
Former City Commissioner Joe Perez
said Deyette is new to politics. "I think
that because they're all so new, there was
the potential to err innocently," he said.
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Society of Newspaper Editors and the Joseph L
"Technical violations" don't
garner charges for officials
NASSAU COUNTY- Lunchtime
gatherings of Nassau County
Commissioners and the county
administrator may have been
"technical" Sunshine Law violations,
but prosecutors won't be pursuing
charges unless the conduct continues.
An anonymous complaint
prompted a "preliminary review"
by the Florida Department of Law
The FDLE forwarded its findings to
the State Attorney's Office.
A subsequent complaint by two
Fernandina Beach police officers alleged
they overheard commissioners talking
about county business at a local restaurant.
"While there appears to be technical
violations...there is no indication of
any sinister intent, personal profit or
other illicit gains by any of the alleged
participants," Assistant State Attorney Jay
Taylor said that commissioners can
eat lunch together, but must refrain from
discussing county business.
OAK HILL A man charged with
disrupting a public meeting was found
not guilty by a county judge.
Ron Mercer interrupted a Feb.
27 city commission meeting to ask
if commissioners followed proper
procedure, according to The Daytona
Former City Attorney Mary Hansen
filed the charge against Mercer, saying
Mercer "waved his cane" and was
LAKE OKEECHOBEE The Army
Corps of Engineers won't release detailed
information about weaknesses in the
Herbert Hoover Dike, citing homeland
The Palm Beach Post requested a
copy of the corps' database and electronic
maps of leaks in the dike.
"To reveal this type of information
would only assist those who might seek
to harm the residents downstream by
damaging the dike," Patricia Morris,
attorney for the corps, wrote to The Post.
More than 40,000 people live next to
threatened with removal.
Mercer was unaware the flag salute,
prayer and roll call had taken place earlier.
Volusia County Judge John Roger
Smith watched a video of the meeting and
concluded that Mercer's actions did not
amount to "willful" disruption.
Oak Hill resident Julie Wood faces
similar charges for the same meeting. Wood
is awaiting a hearing, according to The
Lake Okeechobee was the site of one of
the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history
when a hurricane killed at least 2,500 people
in 1928. The dike was constructed after that
But U.S. Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fort
Pierce) said he was Somlllc hli perplexed"
by the corps' refusal to release the
Foley has promised to seek money from
Congress to help with the corps' $300
million dike repair project.
"How can I authorize help for them
if they won't tell me where they're most
susceptible?" Foley said.
The Brechner Report U October 2006 3
Resident is found not guilty of
disrupting commission meeting
Corps refuses to release Lake
Okeechobee dike information
Strong access laws helped expose boot camp flaws
Even as they yet again whittled away at the state's a lawsuit the newspaper filed along with CNN tha
Public Records Law, Florida lawmakers earlier this year state officials had made the videotape a public record
voted to disband a controversial juvenile justice boot by providing it to someone outside of the formal
camp program whose flaws had been laid bare largely investigation.
through the use of that same Public Records Law. The video was released by the Florida Departmenl
In approving the Martin Lee Anderson Act, members Law Enforcement on Feb. 17, under a settlement witl
of the Florida Legislature agreed to cease funding for all the newspaper and CNN. It was broadcast throughout
military-style boot camps, run by sheriff's offices, that the day, and over the weekend, to a national audience
use intimidation and force to gain compliance with rules Carol Marbin On March 2, we used the boot camp's own police
and orders. Miller and procedures manual, as well as state records, to sh
The move followed months of painstaking reporting that guards were to use physical force only when the
into the Jan. 6 death of Martin, who stopped breathing after a kids were a threat to life or property or at risk of escape...and o
gaggle of Bay County camp guards punched, kneed and dragged as a "last resort."
the youth around for at least 30 minutes all while a video A week later, on March 10, we quoted from the Panama Cit
The camera was running. boot camp's own use-of-force report to describe exactly what
B ck P a e An autopsy performed by happened to Martin. The restraint report, written by the guards
B ack Page a Tampa medical examiner detailed every force technique that was used Jan. 5. The report
Carol Marbin Miller concluded Martin died of quoted the youth as insisting he "couldn't breathe" while the
By arol rin Miller sphyxiation after guards held physical force was being used.
his mouth shut while forcing ammonia tablets up his nose. On March 28, using e-mails we obtained through Florida's
Hillsborough County State Attorney Mike Ober has been Public Records Law, we showed that the state's top state law
investigating the incident since February, when Gov. Jeb Bush enforcement officer, the head of the Florida Department of Lai
assigned him the case. Enforcement, was sending cozy e-mails to the Bay County Sh(
But Martin's ordeal, and the conditions of the five boot camps even as he headed FDLE's investigation into Martin's death at
in Florida at the time, would not have come under legislative sheriff's boot camp. Commissioner Guy Tunnell was removed
scrutiny if not for Florida's ever-threatened records law. The from the investigation, and later resigned.
Miami Herald's first story on Martin's death involving public Perhaps our most ambitious reporting involved an examinal
records was published five days after the teen died. of every use-of-force report generated by the Panama City can
We also asked almost immediately for all Inspector General since 2003. We obtained the reports from the Sheriff's Office
reports for the Panama City boot camp, and reported Feb. 7 that under a public records request, and entered important details o
in the two years before Martin's death, at least two other boys every record into a spreadsheet.
had complained they'd been choked during a restraint. The story, published April 2, showed that, with very few
The story of Martin's death gained national attention two days exceptions, the teenagers in the Bay County boot camp were
later, when The Miami Herald convinced two state lawmakers to being restrained with painful, often banned techniques for min
describe what they saw on a grainy 30- or 40-minute videotape of
Martin's last moments at the boot camp. The state representatives
said Martin had been "flung around like a rag doll."
The Feb. 9 story was of tremendous consequence for another
reason: Relying upon an e-mail the newspaper obtained through
Chapter 119 from Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen, The
Herald argued first in a public records request, and later in
infractions such as smiling, smirking and shrugging. And state
juvenile justice officials were exercising virtually no oversight.
Carol Marbin Miller a 20-year veteran of Florida
newspapers, covers child welfare, juvenile justice and other
social issues statewide for The Miami Herald, where she has
worked since 2000. She also wrote for the St. Petersburg Times.