Volume 32, 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
Journalists arrested during
Republican Convention protests
MINNEAPOLIS Fourjournalists, nights in jail awaiting riot charges.
two journalism students, and a journalism "Covering news is a constitutionally
adviser were arrested, and over a dozen protected activity, and covering a riot
more journalists were given citations, is part of that coverage. Photographers
during anti-war protests at the Republican should not be detained for covering
National FIT T breaking news," said David Ake, an
Convention. FI ST Associated Press assistant chief of
Democracy AMENDMENT bureau, according to The AP.
Now! producers Over 10,000 people participated
Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar in the protest on the first day of the
were arrested on a felony riot charge while convention, and over 280 people were
carrying out their journalistic duties on the arrested.
first day of the convention, according to St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said
a statement from Democracy Now! Host the officers' response was "nothing short
Amy Goodman was detained and charged of heroic," according to The Reporters
with misdemeanor obstruction of a legal Committee for Freedom of the Press.
process and interference with a police Near the end of the convention,
officer after asking police officers about around 18 journalists were cited for
Kouddous and Salazar. unlawful assembly while covering a
Associated Press photographer protest. They were not given a chance
Matthew Rourke was also arrested after to leave before officers confronted the
he took a photograph of a police officer protesters.
kneeling on a protestor's neck. Two Source: The Associated Press and
University of Kentucky journalism The Reporters Committee for Freedom of
students and an adviser spent at least two the Press
Comments not defamatory
RICHMOND, Va. An appellate court
held the First Amendment protected a
former Air America host who claimed a
military contractor was responsible for
rape, torture and murder at the Abu Ghraib
Randi Rhodes told listeners that
interrogators from military contractor
CACI International were hired to
supplement personnel in Iraq. Citing
military reports, Rhodes accused the
interrogators of directing the abuse of Abu
CACI's subsequent defamation suit
argued Rhodes spoke with reckless
disregard for the truth.
Rhodes, however, expressed herself
not through "actual facts" but protected
hyperbole, said a judge for the 4th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals in upholding the
lower court's dismissal of the suit.
Rhodes' comments were "unbridled,
caustic, and indignant," but the right to
free speech "minimizes the danger of
self-censorship on the part of those who
would criticize, thus allowing robust
debate about the actions of public officials
and public figures," wrote Judge M. Blane
"I always believed in our case, and I
believed that the speech involved here
was so much at the core of what the First
Amendment is all about," said Rhodes'
attorney Laura Handman, according to
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of
Source: The Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press
WEST PALM BEACH -
Discussions about the state's
proposed $1.75 billion buyout
of U.S. Sugar violated the Open
Meetings Law, according to a former
U.S. attorney's lawsuit.
Dexter Lehtinen claims Gov.
Charlie Crist's representatives and
district leaders secretly negotiated
the buyout before it was announced
on June 24.
Under the deal, U.S. Sugar would
its land MEETINGS
state. The 187,000 acres of farmland
would be converted to marshes
and reservoirs to help restore the
"I'm not trying to stop the
purchase. I'mjust trying to stop
a process in which there are no
answers and there's no way to get
answers," said Lehtinen, according to
The Associated Press.
The governor's office released a
statement responding to Lehtinen's
accusations. "We support the South
Florida Water Management District
and have confidence that the district
has operated within the public record
laws of Florida," said Sterling Ivey,
a spokesperson for Gov. Crist, who
brokered the deal.
Lehtinen seeks to have the
SFWMD's nonbinding "statement of
principles" outlining the deal thrown
Source: The Associated Press and
The Palm Beach Post
FIRST AMENDMENT CONTINUED
Court declines First Amendment claim
BOSTON, Mass. The Federal Bureau
of Investigation allegedly pushed, hit and
pepper sprayed reporters covering a raid,
but a federal appeals court refused to
consider whether this violated their First
Amendment right to gather and report the
The journalists did not show they were
authorized to be on the property in the first
place, according to a three-judge panel of
the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The reporters entered the home of a
Puerto Rican activist after the activist's
daughter waved them in. But the court
held the wave did not give the reporters a
First Amendment right to be on the private
property, and the reporters did not show
they had a right to enter a nearby private
The court also said the reporters still
can claim the FBI used excessive force
under the Fourth Amendment. In addition,
the court said the lower court incorrectly
failed to assume the plaintiffs' version of
McCain apologizes for gaffe
LEE COUNTY Senator John reporters were removed along with Price,
McCain's presidential campaign and any reporters not with the national
apologized for denying a Tallahassee press who remained should have been
Democrat reporter access to an area removed as well.
restricted to national reporters. Price and Bob Gabordi, the
Secret Service agents told Stephen Democrat 's executive editor, accepted the
Price to leave an area reserved for the apology but lambasted the Secret Service.
national media, even though other state "Our issue remains with the Secret
reporters were in the same area. Service agent. His actions are still a
state reporter NEWSG7ATT-1RINT The
was removed I senator's
when she campaign
asked why Price was ejected. Two state has done the right thing and we
reporters remained. Price was the only appreciate that," said Gabordi, according
black reporter in the area. to The AP.
"Race played absolutely no role in "It was just a really crazy situation.
any actions taken by our employees or We were being carted out of there and
anybody else in this case," Secret Service everyone was looking," said Price,
spokesperson Eric Zahren said, according according to The AP.
to The Associated Press. Source: The Associated Press and the
Zahren also said two other Florida Tallahassee Democrat
Rosenberg records stay sealed
NEW YORK A federal judge held confidentiality rules.
that the testimony of a key witness in Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein's order
the 1950s Julius and Ethel Rosenberg unsealed the records of all the witnesses
espionage case will remain sealed, but who testified except those who are still
testimony from 42 other witnesses will be alive and refused to consent to the release
made public, of their testimony.
David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg's "History of how we dealt with these
brother, objected to having his grand problems in the 1940s and 1950s is a
jury testimony released. His testimony current history, and a history that is very
helped convict important for us to understand,"
the Rosenbergs of C O U RT S said Hellerstein, according to
disclosing nuclear The Associated Press.
weapons secrets to the The government has two
USSR. The Rosenbergs were executed in months to appeal.
1953. Judge Hellerstein's order also unsealed
Historians argued for the release of testimony in the Abraham Brothman and
over 1,000 pages of grand jury testimony, Miriam Moskowitz Cold War spy case.
claiming the historical significance of Source: The New York Times and The
the Rosenberg case trumped grand jury Associated Press
the facts were true in dismissing the case.
"Here, the plaintiffs' submissions
reveal that without any provocation or
need for force, the defendants assailed
them," wrote Judge Juan Torruella in his
The U.S. District Court in San Juan
will now determine whether the reporters'
Fourth Amendment rights were violated
during the raid.
Source: The Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press
NAPLES A "public" meeting
about leasing Alligator Alley ended
after 20 minutes with no public
Packets summarizing information
about six firms interested in the lease
MEETINGS to Florida
of Transportation officials in
attendance. The packets were given
to the DOT officials to score the
firms based on technical and financial
A DOT representative said officials
needed to contact DOT lawyers to
determine if the packets were part of
the public record.
Some meeting attendees were
incensed after driving nearly two hours
for the meeting. "If you go to a public
meeting, by golly, it better be open
to the public," said State Rep. Matt
Hudson, R-Naples, according to the
Naples Daily News.
Hudson also claimed the meeting
was not properly noticed.
The Alligator Alley lease is
expected to last for 50 to 75 years
and could potentially result in a $500
million initial payout to the state.
The lease has caused disagreement
among residents and legislators in
Broward and Collier counties.
Source: Naples Daily News
2 The Brechner Report U October 2008
City manager scolded for public records violation
CORAL GABLES Mayor Don "Your effort to mislead persons to Howard Rosen, according to The Miami
Slesnick issued a written reprimand
to City Manager David Brown, who
admitted in court he kept public records
from a journalist who uncovered suspect
purchases on a city-issued Visa card.
Brown said he directed an employee
to withhold statements and receipts from
George Volsky, a columnist with the Coral
Gables Gazette, until he could add two
backdated receipts showing he reimbursed
the city for expensive lunches.
CLEARWATER A circuit judge ruled
that crime scene photographs of the suicide
of Deborah Palfrey, the D.C. Madam, are
public but cannot be copied or published.
Blanche Palfrey, the mother of the
D.C. Madam, sued to stop police and a
medical examiner's office from releasing
photographs of her deceased daughter.
Police took photographs of Deborah
Palfrey after she hanged herself in
Blanche Palfrey's shed. The Pinellas-
Pasco Medical Examiner's Office took
photographs of the autopsy.
Neither department released the photos
because the investigation was ongoing.
The only entity which had sought the
photographs before Palfrey's suit was the
internet site The Smoking Gun.
Blanche Palfrey's lawsuit claimed the
release would cause sc\ c i emotional
distress" to her and to any children who
Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
3208 Weimer Hall, PO Box 118400
College of Journalism and Communications
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8400
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Sandra F. Chance, J.D., Exec. Director/Exec. Editor
Kearston Wesner, Editor
Alana Kolifrath, Production Coordinator
Alison Parker, Production Assistant
The BrechnerReport is published 12 times a
year under the auspices of the University of Florida
Foundation The BrechnerReport is a joint effort of
The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information,
the University of Florida College of Journalism and
Communications, the Florida Press Association,
the Florida Association of Broadcasters, the Florida
Society of Newspaper Editors and the Joseph L
believing that your reimbursements to
the city occurred at an earlier time is
unacceptable and has brought discredit to
you and to the city," Slesnick wrote.
Brown admitted he kept the documents
from Volsky, but the State Attorney's
Office only accused him of one civil count
of violating state public records laws.
"He made a simple error in judgment.
The state doesn't believe it's a serious
violation," said Assistant State Attorney
might see the photographs in the news.
"I'm afraid it would kill me," said
Palfrey, according to the St. Petersburg
An attorney for the Times had mixed
emotions about Sixth Circuit Judge Linda
Allan's holding. "I'm not sure that it's
legally correct, but it's eminently fair,"
said Times attorney Tom Reynolds,
according to the Times.
Judge Allan said the order was a
temporary injunction that could be
A federal jury had convicted Deborah
Palfrey of money laundering and
racketeering in connection with her
Washington, D.C. prostitution ring.
She committed suicide while awaiting
Source: St. Petersburg Times and
"I'm shocked by the decision from
the State Attorney's Office not to charge
Mr. Brown with the premeditated attempt
to falsify and cover up the receipts
in question," said Dan Benedit, the
procurement supervisor who told police of
the receipts, according to The Herald.
Brown paid a $500 fine and $2,100 for
costs of the investigation.
Source: The Miami Herald
SEBRING The Clerk of Courts
disregarded legal advice and turned
over videotapes to The News-Sun after
determining the tapes were public records.
"After due consideration, I am
convinced that the material [sic] in
question are not exempt but are subject
to the public records sunshine law," L.E.
"Luke" Brooker wrote to The News-Sun.
The tapes allegedly showed county
employees stealing gasoline from county
Sebring attorney James Lobozzo Jr.,
who represents the clerk's office, claimed
the videotapes were exempt from the
Public Records Law because they were
part of an active criminal investigation by
the Highlands Sheriff's Office.
Source: The News-Sun
personal e-mails are private
LEE COUNTY Personal e-mails
are private, even if they are sent on
government computers, a circuit judge
Attorney Doug Wilson sought
the county's e-mails after his clients
were fired from their county jobs for
exchanging other salacious e-mails.
Wilson hoped the requested e-mails
would reveal the identities of other
individuals not implicated in the
Assistant County Attorney Colleen
Greene told the court that some of
the employees' personal e-mails were
excluded from the response to Wilson's
request because they were private
Circuit Judge Cynthia Ellis agreed
with Greene and held that the requested
e-mails were not public records under
the Public Records Law. Therefore,
Wilson could not obtain them.
Wilson expressed concern that
the decision made it possible for
"corruption to be concealed," according
to the Bonita Daily News.
Source: Bonita Daily News
The Brechner Report U October 2008
D.C. Madam photos held public
University of Florida
Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
3208 Welmer Hall, P.O. Box 118400
Gainesville, FL 32611
Permit No. 94
UF UNIVERSITY of
Openness principles guide
Open government has been a core principle of Florida's
constitutional psyche since 1909, when the first public
records law was placed on the books. The Government
in the Sunshine Law was enacted in 1967, and in 2002,
an overwhelming 75 percent of Florida voters supported
a constitutional amendment requiring two-thirds of the
Legislature rather than just a majority to vote to
approve new exemptions to Florida's Sunshine Laws.
Under the Public Records Law, every person has the Alexis
constitutional right to inspect or copy any public records,
with a few exceptions. The Open Meetings Law enables
citizens to access state and local government proceedings.
e The Attorney General's
he Office has played a
B ack P age significant role in helping the
public understand the laws.
By Alexis Lambert It is my responsibility as
the new Attorney General's
Sunshine Law attorney to field questions from reporters, officials
and citizens about public records and open government issues
daily. My goal is to help people resolve any issues before costly
and time-consuming litigation becomes necessary.
Occasionally, these issues can be resolved with a quick phone
call to remind a government official to operate in the sunshine
or to turn over the requested records. Usually, members of the
media just need advice, although some ask that I intervene in
particularly egregious situations. I cannot provide legal counsel,
but I can guide people through the laws' finer points.
Since becoming the Sunshine Law attorney, I have received
many phone calls about how to handle driver's license
information in personnel files. Generally, personnel records
are public records unless there is a legislative exemption.
Applications for employment, salary information, grievance
records, and travel vouchers are all subject to disclosure. The
media has access to this information, with significant redactions.
The Drivers Privacy Protection Act, at 18 U.S.C. 2721,
which Florida law mirrors, requires the redaction of information
such as driver's license photographs, Social Security numbers,
medical and disability information, and emergency contact
information. Such information may typically be released only if
"authorized under state law, if such use is related to the operation
of a motor vehicle or public safety."
Authorized recipients of this personal information
may disclose it for a handful of permitted purposes under
Florida Statute chapter 119.0712(2)(e). Information such
as driver's license photographs must be redacted unless
its disclosure is required for "governmental purposes."
Qualifying "governmental purposes" include: the
issuance of duplicate driver's licenses; law enforcement
Lambert agency requests; voter eligibility determinations by
the Department of State; paternity and child support
actions in Title IV cases conducted by the Department
of Revenue; protective investigations done by the Department
of Children and Family Services; or for the Department of
Financial Services to facilitate obtaining the location of owners
of unclaimed property, validating unclaimed property claims,
or identifying fraudulent or false claims. Medical information
is almost always redacted, except for very narrow exceptions
regarding revocation, cancellation, or suspension orders.
I have also received many calls about police vehicle inventory
records. Officers' names, titles, and take home vehicles are
typically subject to disclosure. Certain information, though,
is exempt: information that would reveal any undercover
personnel; information revealing surveillance personnel or
resources; the home addresses, phone numbers, Social Security
numbers, and photographs of law enforcement personnel and
their spouses; and the names and locations of schools or day care
facilities the law enforcement personnel's children attend.
As the Sunshine Law attorney, I do more than explain the law;
I can also direct people to processes to help them obtain relief.
For example, the Attorney General's Office conducts a mediation
program, established at Florida Statute 16.60. This program
creates an informal process for citizens and governmental
agencies to resolve public access controversies without litigation.
My responsibility is to help the public navigate the available
laws and resources. Like the government, my office is open.
I can be reached at (850) 245-1097 or by email at Alexis.
Lambert@myfloridalegal.com. I look forward to working with
you and helping Florida keep its reputation as the Sunshine State.
Alexis Lambert is the new Sunshine Law attorney for the
Office of the Attorney General.