Volume 28, Number 11 A monthly report of mass media law in Florida
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom ofI,,l .-... ,1. College ofJournalism and Communications U University ofFlorida
LARGO After initially denying a
public records request, a local judicial
group released Pinellas County Judge
Sonny Im's financial records.
AC CESS Carballo, who
RECORDS against Im for a
County judicial seat, had requested
information including the financial
portion of Im's recent application for a
circuit court seat.
But the Pinellas-Pasco Judicial
Nominating Commission (JNC) would not
allow Carballo to view the financial part
of the application. In addition, he was
not allowed to make copies of other
portions of the application, even though
he was allowed to view nonfinancial
JNC chairwoman Sallie Skipper
acknowledged the fact that the Florida
Constitution guarantees JNC records are
open to the public.
"But am I to provide copies to
anybody who asks for them?" she said.
"I think the answer is no. We allow
anyone to look at the application. Once
the copies are put out there, it's kind of
hard to bring them back."
According to Skipper, she contacted
Gov. Jeb Bush's staff for guidance after
Corballo made his request, but they did
Soon after, she denied the lawyer's
request to access Im's financial records.
She also denied a request from the St.
Petersburg Times for copies of the same
information requested by Carballo.
But, following the Times' request,
Bush's general counsel's office told
Skipper that Im's full application,
including financial material, was a public
record and must be released.
Judge opens some discovery material
about Brucia murder in Smith case
SARASOTA The judge in the case Smith's relatives and any DNA evidence
against Joseph P. Smith released some that might link Smith to Carlie's death
discovery material about the remained sealed.
kidnapping and murder of A C C E SS Lawyers for the media,
CarlieBrucia. ,. prosecution and defense
Smith's lawyer had asked RECORDS commended Owens for
Circuit Judge Andrew conducting such a careful and
Owens to keep all the records sealed, but detailed review of the documents.
attorneys for several media outlets "My overall position is that I wanted
argued for a compromise between the to restrict all the information, barring
defendant's right to a fair trial and the that... his proposed order seems to strike
public's right to know. a good balance," Assistant Public
Owens gave lawyers for the media, Defender Adam Tebrugge said.
prosecution and defense a six-page Owens said it was in everyone's best
inventory of the 1,906 pages of discovery interest to release the information quickly
material, detailing what should and so there would be less of a chance of
should not be made public. Later,
prosecutors released 526 pages of
information including the incident report,
some investigative reports, witness
statements and transcripts of the 911 call.
Information such as the medical
examiner's report, statements from
having problems seating a fair and
impartial jury. He is still considering the
release of names of people who gave
leads or tips to law enforcement.
He may keep them sealed to protect
the privacy of tipsters who were
Judge dismisses suit against mayor
DELRAYBEACH Ajudge dismissed
a lawsuit against Delray Beach Mayor
Jeff Perlman over a publishing contract
with the school district, saying that his
business' records are private.
The suit, filed by Delray Beach
resident Deborah Bennett, argued that all
documents related to the $70,000 contract
and publication of Education Today
newsletter were public information
because Perlman produced it for the Palm
Beach County School Board. Circuit
Judge Kenneth Ster upheld Perlman's
argument that he is a private contractor
and, despite the fact he was paid public
money for his services, the records
contained proprietary information.
"The public funds received by the firm
were no different than those received
from any other client," he wrote. "The
firm's motivation for rendering
professional services was clearly to
receive compensation, not to provide a
He added that the list of documents
Bennett sought was too broad and would
not have been public under Florida's
Sunshine Law, even if he had ruled the
case could proceed.
The dispute stemmed from a 2002
contract between the school board and
Perlman's company, Magnum Publishing,
which gave Perlman $69,140 to produce
and circulate six editions of Education
Today. According to The Palm Beach
Post, Bennett sought access to the
records to hold Perlman and the school
board accountable for the public money
used to produce the newsletters.
Perlman claims he complied with every
records request Bennett made, until she
asked for personal and private financial
information, at which point he sought
AGO: PRIDE is
subject to Open
Meetings Law applies to Prison
Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified
Enterprises (PRIDE), a nonprofit
corporation established by the legislature
to lease and manage the correction work
programs of the Department of
Corrections, according to a recent Florida
Attorney General Opinion.
The ruling came in response to a
question by Florida Department of
Corrections Secretary James Crosby
about whether board meetings were
subject to the requirements of the state's
Open Meeting Law.
"Reasonable notice must be given, the
meeting must be open to the public and
minutes must be taken and promptly
recorded," Attorney General Charlie Crist
PRIDE' s activities came under
scrutiny recently when the St.
Petersburg Times raised questions about
millions of dollars in loans to a spin-off
company PRIDE created and the
corporation ousted its two top executives
after meeting in closed session in Tampa.
In addition, PRIDE may not close their
meetings when considering proprietary
confidential business information in the
absence of a specific exemption or
exception, according to the opinion.
However, Crist recognized that
proprietary confidential business
information sent to Crosby as a member
of the PRIDE board remained exempt from
the Public Records Law.
Copies of case opinions, Florida
Attorney General opinions, or
!,.i, ,'ha,. 'i reported in any issue as
on file" may be obtained upon
requestfrom the Brechner Center for
Freedom of Information, College of
Journalism and Communications,
3208 Weimer Hall, P.O. Box 118400,
University ofFlorida, Gainesville, FL
32611-8400, (352) 392-2273.
2 The Brechner Report U November 2004
AGO: Open Meetings Law applies to
volunteer fire department meetings
TALLAHASSEE- The Florida
Attorney General issued an opinion
saying the state Sunshine Law applies to
meetings of local volunteer fire
departments, but not to a county
Escambia County Attorney Janet
Lander asked Attorney General Charlie
Crist to determine the applicability of the
state's Open Meetings Law to two
The first was individual boards of
directors of volunteer fire departments
that provide services to and are paid by
The other was the Escambia County
Volunteer Firemen's Association, Inc.,
established by the county's volunteer
fire departments to discuss firefighting
Crist said the Sunshine Law applied to
the board of directors of volunteer fire
departments because they hold "official
corporate governance meetings" and
"provide firefighting services to and use
facilities and equipment acquired with
public funds from Escambia County."
According to Crist, the departments
are not subject to the law merely because
they receive county funding, but
because their purpose is accomplished
through an arrangement with the county
to provide a service to county citizens.
Conversely, the attorney general said
the Firemen's Association is "an
organization providing an opportunity to
network and discuss common concerns,
however, [its] forum would not by itself
be subject to the Open Meetings Law."
John Reble, chairman of the Santa
Rosa County Emergency Services
Advisory Committee, said the opinion
about volunteer fire department boards
"will probably come as quite a surprise to
various fire departments."
(AGO 2004-32, 6/25/04)
Power Trips investigates congressional
leaders' privately-funded trips
WASHINGTON In the past four long as they remain in the realm of what
years, more than $14 million was spent is considered "reasonable and
by corporations, outside interest necessary expenses.
groups and universities to send According to the Power Trips report,
members of Congress on trips, most of the funded trips were designed
according to Power to keep officials informed of
Trips, an investigative A C C E SS the effects of policy on their
report published by sponsor's particular industry.
Marketplace, American RECORDS But the trips also included
Radio Works and a group a great deal of informal
of graduate students at Northwestern engagements, social events and
University's Medill School of meetings, which were always paid for
Journalism. and staged by the interest groups.
These "information gathering and The data shows that Democrats
fact-finding trips" often took traveled expense-free the most, taking
representatives around the world to 2,730 trips and amassing a total bill of
locations such as South Africa, nearly $7.9 millionbetween January
Singapore and Zurich for weeks at a 2000 and May 2004.
time. Republicans followed closely,
Some less-lucrative gifts included all- ringing up a tab of more than $6.5
expenses-paid excursions to million on a total of 2,095 trips.
universities and institutions for key Independents went on 22 trips at a cost
note speeches and graduation of $53,830.
ceremonies. For more information on the report,
In 1995, congressional reforms were including trip record searches by
enacted to limit members from accepting representative and state, longest trips,
gifts worth more than $50. most expensive trips, top destinations
Although that rule remains, and top trip takers, visit the American
representatives and senators can accept RadioWorks Web site at http://
travel-related gifts worth much more, as americanradioworks.publicradio.org/.
News reporters held in contempt for U.S. Rep. Hastings
refusing to reveal confidential sources sues election
WASHINGTON- In three recent
cases, judges have held journalists in
contempt of court for refusing to reveal
their anonymous sources, setting up a
showdown between the government and
reporters, according to free press
In August, a district judge held five
journalists in contempt of court for
refusing to identify their sources for
stories about Dr. Wen Ho Lee, a former
nuclear weapons scientist once
suspected of spying. U.S. District Judge
Thomas Penfield Jackson imposed a
$500-a-day fine on five journalists, which
he immediately suspended, pending the
Lawyers for the defendants, Jeff Gerth
and James Risen of The New York Times;
Robert Drogin of the Los Angeles Times;
H. Josef Hebert of the Associated Press;
and Pierre Thomas, formerly of CNN and
now of ABC News, said they intend to
appeal the judge's order to the U.S. Court
of Appeals in Washington.
A federal judge also held reporter
Matthew Cooper, of Time magazine, in
contempt of court for refusing to name
the government officials who revealed
the identity of an undercover CIA officer
to him. Judge Thomas F. Hogan, chief
judge of the U.S. District Court in
Washington, ordered Cooper to jail and
fined Time $1,000 a day.
The orders were dismissed when
Cooper agreed to give a deposition after
his source, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice
President Dick Cheney's chief of staff,
personally released him from a promise of
confidentiality about a conversation the
two men had last year.
Meanwhile, a federal court assessed a
$1,000-a-day fine against Jim Taricani, a
reporter forProvidence's NBC affiliate
In March, the reporter was held in
contempt for refusing to reveal a source
who gave him a secret FBI tape during an
investigation of corruption in Providence
City Hall. Taricani appealed to the 1 t U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston,
which upheld the district judge's ruling.
According to Lucy Dalglish, executive
director of the Reporters Committee for
the Freedom of the Press, the number of
journalists that are facing possible jail
terms or major fines for refusing to
disclose confidential sources is
"unprecedented, it's crazy."
The media have long relied on a
concurring opinion in a 1972 Supreme
Court case to protect them from
testifying in some cases. That opinion
held that journalists do not have to
testify about confidential material unless
the information is central to the case
and cannot be obtained from anywhere
Recently, federal judges seem more
reluctant to recognize a First Amendment
privilege forjournalists to shield their
sources and notes and "prosecutors are
getting more aggressive in going after
journalists," Dalglish said.
"[But,] these are journalists with
national stature working for mainstream,
well-respected publications and
broadcast entities...so, I don't think
they're going to be intimidated into
revealing their confidential sources," she
said. "I think we're setting up a real
New regulations create access barriers
WASHINGTON-New federal prevent transportation security
regulations may limit access to information from reaching the wrong
information about the nation's seaports, hands and being used to plan another
according to a group of 9/11 attack," according to
access advocates. A C C E S Congressional Research
In addition to protectingA k k L Service, which issued a
security information, the RECORDS report.
new rules could block the The new rules are "too
release of criminal and driving records of broad and vague, allowing the
hazardous-waste haulers, and the safety government to stamp 'secret' on
history of vessel and railroad operators, something just because it's a public
making it more difficult to monitor the embarrassment," said Rick Blum, dire
safety and environmental conditions of of OpenTheGovemment.org, a coaliti
these facilities, of advocacy groups. "This actually
"The regulations are an attempt to undermines public safety."
opponent for libel
PALM BEACH Two days after the
U.S. House District 23 primary election,
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings filed a lawsuit
against his election opponent for libel.
Hastings is suing Keith Claybome and
his newspaper, The Broward Times,
claiming the publisher printed defamatory
and malicious lies about him during the
Hastings won the election, capturing
74 percent of the vote to win his seventh
In the suit, Hastings accuses
Claybome of damaging his reputation as
a "reputable and distinguished U.S.
congressman and an international
statesman of great repute."
He claims Clayborne lied about the
situation surrounding Hastings'
impeachment from the federal bench in
Additionally, he accuses Claybome of
misrepresenting his judicial records by
claiming Hastings "went light on major
drug traffickers-criminals." He is seeking
more than $50,000 in damages.
Claybome said he checked with
attorneys before publishing his columns
that attacked Hastings' record. The
columns were his opinion, which
everyone is entitled to, he added.
"It may lead to speculation, but it's
not libel," he said.
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I I , I I IR I N 2004 3
The Brechner Report U November 2004
First Amendment Center Su
This article contains excerpts from Analysis: 2004
State of First Amendment survey report and Low
Marks. They can be found in their entirety at
www.firstamendmentcenter. org and www. ajr. org,
One theme persists over the eight years that the
First Amendment Center has conducted the State of
the First Amendment
The survey: In the minds of
Back Page many Americans, there Paul MN
is a troubling
By Paul McMasters disconnect between principle
and practice when it comes to
First Amendment rights and values.
The 2004 survey presents yet another variation on the theme.
This year's survey, conducted by the First Amendment Center in
collaboration with the American Journalism Review, shows a
recovery from a post-9/11 low in public support for the First
Amendment in general, but Americans remain critical of the
professionalism and ethics of the people and organizations that
deliver the news.
Americans in significant numbers appear willing to regulate
the speech of those they don't like, don't agree with or find
offensive. Respondents said that the press is biased, that it
routinely falsifies and fabricates stories, and that it abuses its
freedom. The results indicate the press is falling short of what
most journalists and Americans want it to be.
Furthermore, the survey showed solid evidence of confusion
about, if not outright hostility toward, core First Amendment
rights and values. A significant number of citizens were
concerned about the extent of freedom guaranteed by the First
Amendment. A number of questions posed repeatedly since
1997 indicate how wary some Americans can be about the notion
of "too much freedom".
30 percent say the First Amendment goes too far in the
rights it guarantees; although this is a significant drop from the
49 percent spike in 2002 (apparently related to fear and concern in
the wake of Sept. 11,2001), three in 10 is still an unsettling
42 percent say the "press in America has too much
freedom," although that number drops to 36 percent when the
rvey: Press falling short
question is whether "Americans have too much press
41 percent disagree with the statement that
newspapers should be allowed to freely criticize the U.S.
In addition, schools have failed to teach the
importance of the First Amendment. Two-thirds of
Americans give schools low grades, saying they have
done a "poor" or "fair" job in teaching students about
cMasters the First Amendment. Only 7 percent say the schools
have done an excellent job.
So the educational challenge is great. Just how great is
reflected in how poorly Americans do when asked to name the
five fundamental freedoms the First Amendment guarantees.
Freedom of speech was the most frequent response, but even
then only 58 percent could cite it. The recognition or recall of
First Amendment freedoms slides steeply down hill from there: 17
percent are able to list religion, 15 percent press and 10 percent
assembly. Only one in 100 Americans could name petition.
The 2004 survey did have a couple of nuggets of good news.
In a first-time question, 77 percent agreed that the news media
should act as a "watchdog" on government. Also, a growing
number of Americans appear to share the press' concern about
increasing government secrecy and control of information. In this
year's poll, 50 percent said that they have too little information
about the government's war on terrorism; that figure was 40
percent in 2002. Still, the overall results indicate there is much
room for improvement.
When the First Amendment Center began sampling public
attitudes toward First Amendment freedoms eight years ago, the
goal was to confirm, dispel or elucidate perceptions about the
First Amendment and to provide data and track trends for
scholars, policymakers, advocates and others.
This year's findings lend a new level of urgency to these
leaders and their duty to educate and enforce the importance of
First Amendment freedoms.
Paul McMasters is one of the nation's leading authorities on
First Amendment and freedom-of-information issues. After 33
years in journalism, he joined the Freedom Forum and serves as
the FirstAmendment ombudsman.