Volume 31, Number 1 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
Police arrest speaker at meeting FFMA lawsuii
RIVIERA BEACH Police arrested
a man addressing city council members
during a meeting after he ignored
a council member's request to stop
Fane Lozman, who has
sued Riviera Beach for its A (
use of eminent domain, was _/-L
commenting on the arrests ME
of two government officials
when Councilwoman Liz
Wade told Lozman she did not want to
hear any further comments.
Police escorted Lozman from the
podium, and he was charged with
disorderly conduct and trespassing,
according to The Palm Beach Post.
In his lawsuit against the city,
Lozman claims that the city violated the
Sunshine Law in reaching
--SS an agreement with Viking
S3 Inlet Harbor Properties
SGS to redevelop hundreds of
After Lozman was
arrested, council members voted
unanimously not to use eminent domain in
Florida governor-elect plans
office for open
Charlie Crist announced the creation of
an Office of Open Government within his
The goal of the office will be to ensure
compliance with the Public Records Law
and Sunshine Law.
The office will also assist in training
government agencies on government
"Respecting the public trust that is
bestowed upon all of us who serve the
people of Florida is a top priority for me
and for my administration," said Crist,
who took office Jan. 2.
The office will be led by Director
of Cabinet Affairs and Special Counsel
for Open Government Pat Gleason and
Director of Open Government JoAnn
Gleason and Carrin have worked
for Crist during his tenure as Florida's
attorney general. Gleason was Crist's
general counsel and administered the
attorney general's open-government
mediation program. Carrin was
"Pat Gleason, a longtime champion of
open access to records and government
for all residents, gives the new office
credibility," said John Bartosek, president
of the Florida Society of Newspaper
Editors and editor of The Palm Beach
Polk County board members appeal guilty verdicts
BARTOW A lawyer for the Polk members discussed admonishing a former funded by federal funds, and because
County Opportunity Council appealed the executive director, the meeting was not a meeting for the
decision handed down by a county judge In appealing to circuit court Chief purposes of the Sunshine Law.
that 10 of the council's board members Judge Ron Herring, attorney William Grob Assistant State Attorney Victoria
had violated the Sunshine Law. argued that the members were not public Avalon agued that because the PCOC
In April, the 10 were found guilty of officers because they were not elected had assumed a government function and
civil infractions and fined $250 each. The or appointed by the governor. Grob also received the federal funds via the state,
charges stemmed from a 2005 closed maintained that Florida's Sunshine Law the board members were subject to the
meeting during which the PCOC board did not apply because the board was Sunshine Law.
ATLANTA The battle for FEMA
records has made its way to the 11t
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where
a panel of judges will address two
differing cases handed down by district
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel was
successful in its bid to obtain addresses
of hurricane aid recipients. The Sun-
Sentinel's suit was decided in the U.S.
District Court for the Southern District
Three Gannett papers, The News-
Press (Fort Myers), the Pensacola
News Journal and Florida Today,
were denied their requests for similar
information by a federal judge for the
U.S. District Court for the Middle
District of Florida.
The two cases have been combined
on appeal, and the 11th Circuit is
expected to hand down a decision in
the next several months.
Media attorney Charles Tobin told
the three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit
that the public interest in obtaining
information about how the government
distributed money outweighs the
privacy interests of applicants in
keeping their addresses confidential.
FEMA attorney Mark Ster argued
that disaster aid recipients are assured
privacy at the time of application and
that privacy should be protected.
HIPAA seminar highlights myths, realities of law
ST. PETERSBURG The federal law
that protects patient privacy is a source of
confusion for both healthcare providers
and journalists. A recent seminar brought
together representatives from both fields
in an attempt to clarify the myths and
realities of the Health Insurance Portability
and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
"It's not HIPAA itself that is so
frustrating, it's HIPAA anxiety or HIPAA
reflex," said Lisa Greene, a medical
reporter for the St. Petersburg Times.
Greene was one of seven panelists at the
seminar hosted by the First Amendment
Foundation and The Poynter Institute.
Beginning in 2003, the Privacy Rule
of HIPAA placed restrictions on how
individuals' healthcare information is
released to the public. Violations of the
Privacy Rule carry civil and criminal
penalties, causing healthcare providers to
become even more cautious of releasing
But Patricia R. Gleason, general
CITRUS COUNTY The wording
of a request for proposals for public
relations services violated the Sunshine
Law, causing the selection process to start
The Citrus County Tourist
Development Council had already
awarded the contract when the Citrus
County Attorney's Office determined
there was a flaw in the selection process.
The request for proposals explained
that each vendor could give a presentation
to the TDC.
The document also stated that vendors
"may choose as a professional courtesy to
remain outside the meeting room during
the others' presentations."
David M. Snyder, an attorney for a
firm that did not receive the contract,
argued that the wording of the request
for proposals violated the Sunshine Law
"by inducing parties who made proposals
and presentations to 'voluntarily' absent
themselves from the TDC meeting."
The county attorney agreed with
Snyder, referring to prior case law that
supported Snyder's assertions.
counsel at the Florida Attorney General's
Office, said that Florida law already
protected much of the information covered
by HIPAA. What HIPAA did do, Gleason
said, was provide opportunities for
agencies to use HIPAA as a tool to avoid
giving out records.
HIPAA requires "covered entities"
to keep "protected health information"
private. Covered entities include hospitals
and fire rescue services that provide
medical services. For the most part, law
enforcement agencies are not covered
Captain Bill Wade of Tampa
Fire Rescue described how he used
sources from other agencies to provide
information to the media and the public,
without releasing confidential reports of
The use of other sources to obtain
similar information about crash victims,
high profile medical cases or other health-
related incidents was also emphasized
TAMPA The Tampa Museum of
Art will make its architect selection
process public, after The Tampa Tribune
challenged the private evaluations.
The Tampa Museum
of Art's Foundation had
been privately evaluating A C (
potential designers of a MEET
new museum. The city
will provide $17.5 million
for the new museum, according to The
"We don't want there to be any
appearance of impropriety," museum
Interim Director Ken Rollins said.
An attorney for the museum had
by George Rousis, compliance officer
for Halifax Community Health System.
Rousis encouraged reporters attending the
seminar to look to non-covered entities
first for information.
Familiarity with pertinent federal and
state laws was also a solution to media
HIPAA confusion, Rousis said.
Despite the fear of hefty fines for
violating HIPAA, there have been no civil
fines levied since the Privacy Rule went
into effect, Rousis said. Of the 23,000
complaints, about 300 were referred to the
Department of Justice, so there have been
a few criminal convictions.
"We're all struggling to understand
the implications of this," said Jim Kirley,
a health writer for a daily newspaper in
"It was helpful to note that it doesn't
impact us directly as reporters, as
journalists, rather it impacts us indirectly
as to what healthcare officials can and
can't say," Kirley said.
ess goes public
argued that the Foundation, a separate
entity not subject to open government
laws, was conducting the selection
Attorneys for The
SbTribune argued that the
ESS process should be open
NGS to the public because
the museum, a public
body subject to open
government laws, would have final say
over the hiring process.
The museum released the list of
architects under consideration for the
project after it previously refused to do
Group seeks White House records
WASHINGTON D.C. A federal contraceptive Plan B between the White
judge has allowed a reproductive rights House domestic policy office and certain
group to seek White House documents FDA officials.
related to the group's lawsuit against the The center's suit seeks to lift age
Food and Drug restrictions on
Administration. nonprescription sales of
The Center OF INFORMATION Plan B.
for Reproductive OF INFOR ATION n August, the FDA
Rights can now approved the sale of
subpoena more than three years of Plan B without a prescription to women 18
correspondence regarding the emergency and older.
2 The Brechner Report January 2007
2006 FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REPORT
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information College of Journalism and Communications 0 University of Florida
Detainee investigation wins Brechner award
GAINESVILLE A groundbreaking, the 2005 series revealed psychological
detailed series by The Associated pressures and harsh conditions for the
Press that examined the treatment and approximately 520 male, terrorist suspects,
prosecution of detainees at Guantanamo from 40 countries, held at the secretive
Bay was named the winner of the 2006 U.S. detention camp.
Joseph L. Brechner B The series was
Freedom of Information BRECHNERrecognized with a
Award. $3,000 prize at the
"Guantanamo AWARD 2006 21st Annual Brechner
Exposed" was written
by Associated Press writer Paisley Dodds,
who now serves as the bureau chief in
London. Dodds has covered Guantanamo
Bay since the U.S. opened the detainee
camp in 2002. Taking a look back
during the camp's third year in existence,
Center for Freedom of
Information award celebration on Nov. 13.
The U.S. government released to
The Associated Press nearly 3,000
pages of documents under a Freedom
of Information lawsuit. The documents
- with names and city, village and country
names redacted account for nearly
100 testimonies at secretive tribunal
proceedings where detainees complained
there was no evidence against them and
alleged abuse at the prison camp.
The series also found that detainees
were coerced into confessions and
were subjected to female interrogators
using sexual tactics to weaken Muslim
The annual award was established by
the late Joseph L. Brechner, an Orlando
broadcaster. Previous award winners
include: the San Francisco Chronicle, The
Washington Post, the St. Petersburg Times,
and The Dallas Morning News.
Reporters face jail, fines for shielding sources
Reporters and news organizations
fighting to maintain confidential sources
were hit with criminal and financial
penalties in 2006, although Congress did
attempt to pass a federal shield law.
The federal government and five news
organizations will pay $1.6 million to a
former nuclear weapons scientist once
suspected of being a spy. Wen Ho Lee
settled his privacy lawsuit, in which he
accused the government of violating his
privacy rights by leaking information to
The settlement will also end contempt
of court proceedings against five
reporters who refused to disclose their
sources for stories ab
investigation. The A
New York Times, the
The Washington Pos
agreed to pay Lee $7
"We were reluctai
anything to this
we sought relief
in the courts and
found none," the
companies said in a
rulings of the federal
and the absence of a
decided this was the
our sources and to pr
Secret docket inquiries
TALLAHASSEE In the wake of since 1989. Current
several news stories about secret dockets hearing prior to seali
and sealed cases in state courts, the Florida After The Herald
Supreme Court is poised to newspaper
adopt new rules for sealing C O U R T S cases in H
cases. Pinellas, I
The Miami Herald first Sarasota c
drew attention to Broward County, where The Florida Assoc
more than 400 civil cases have been sealed and Comptrollers sul
out Lee's espionage Two San Francisco Chronicle reporters
ssociatedPress, The were ordered to jail for refusing to
LosAngeles Times, reveal who gave them secret grand jury
t and ABC have testimony from an investigation into
50,000. illegal steroid distribution by the Bay Area
nt to contribute Laboratory Co-Operative.
---1-REPORS Lance Williams and
REPi L ) RRS Mark Fainaru-Wada
PRIVILEGE wrote several articles and
a book based in part on
transcripts of testimony
statement. "Given the by baseball players Barry Bonds, Jason
courts in Washington Giambi and others.
federal shield law, we The reporters'jail sentence has been
best course to protect suspended pending an appeal to the 9h
*otect ourjournalists." U.S. Circuit of Appeals.
prompt rule change
rules do not require a proposed rules, which would require
ng a case. judges to hold a hearing and give advance
stories, other public notice prior to sealing a case.
rs reported on sealed Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis asked
[illsborough, Pasco, Florida's 20 chief judges to review
Palm Beach and sealed cases in their circuits. The Florida
counties Bar's Rules of Judicial Administration
nation of Court Clerks Committee expedited its recommendations
emitted to the justices regarding the new rules at Lewis' request.
Annual FOIReport U 2006
2006 FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REPORT
Informal Opinion: This depends on
whether such staff are the designated
records custodian or have custody of
the public record in certain cases. The
question would likely have to be resolved
by the courts in a particular situation.
Electronic discussion boards: What
are the implications of the Sunshine Law
on the use of an electronic discussion
board to conduct public meetings?
Informal Opinion: The use of an
electronic bulletin board to discuss matters
that may foreseeably come before a public
body over an extended period of time
would not comply with the spirit or letter
Attorney General issues several
TALLAHASSEE Attorney General of the Sunshine Law.
Charlie Crist issued opinions this year Crash reports: Is the City of Maitland
on open government issues ranging from Fire Department authorized by Fla. Stat.
online discussion boards to the redaction 316.066 to receive a copy of a written
of litigation records. (myfloridalegal.com) crash report prepared pursuant to that
Mediation discussions: May a closed section in order to request reimbursement
attorney-client session be held pursuant from the at-fault driver for a fee assessed
to the Sunshine Law to discuss settlement by the city?
negotiations on an issue that is the AGO 2006-11: Fla. Stat. 316.066
subject of ongoing does not authorize the release of written
mediation pursuant ATTO N FV crash reports to the
to a partnership I V City of Maitland Fire
agreement GENERAL OPINIONS Department for the
between the water purposes of requesting
management district and others? reimbursement from
AGO 2006-03: A closed attorney- the at-fault driver in an accident for a
session may not be held pursuant to the fee assessed by the city. The Legislature
Sunshine Law to discuss these types of may wish to reconsider the provisions of
matters. The attorney general's office 316.066(3)(c) to address these concerns.
"cannot read an exception into the statute Simultaneous meetings: May the Joint
for pre-litigation mediation proceedings." Citizens Advisory Committee comply with
Utilities commission records: Are the Sunshine Law in holding its quarterly
records of the New Smyrna Beach Utilities meeting by linking simultaneous meetings
Commission that are furnished to the of citizens' advisory committees in each
Florida Department of Law Enforcement of its participating counties, networked
in the course of a criminal investigation via computers, conference call, video or
by the department exempt as criminal some other electronic media technology,
intelligence or criminal investigative so that all members of the committees
information? and the public can hear and participate at
AGO 2006-04: Such records are the meeting, when each committee has a
subject to disclosure even though some quorum present for its meeting?
of those records may have been provided AGO 2006-20: The Joint Citizens
to the FDLE in the course of a criminal Advisory Committee whose members
investigation. The utilities commission, are representatives from several county
however, may not identify which of its metropolitan planning organizations may
records have been provided to the FDLE use electronic media technology to link
while such records in the hands of the simultaneously held public meetings of
department constitute active criminal citizens' advisory committees allowing all
intelligence or investigative information, members of the committees and the public
Duties of a records custodian: to hear and participate at workshops.
Whether the Public Records Law imposes The use of electronic media technology,
a responsibility on "public relations staff' however, does not satisfy quorum
or other employees of an agency to make a requirements necessary for official action
good faith effort to locate documents, to be taken by the joint committee.
2 Annual FOIReport U 2006
Court records still under study
TALLAHASSEE Florida's cases in which a state agency is a party.
moratorium on electronic access to court Among other things, the justices are still
records will remain in effect while issues concerned with privacy, identity theft, fees
are studied further, according to a July for access and which Public Records Law
2006 order by the Florida Supreme Court. exemptions to apply to court records.
In the meantime, Manatee County will be The Committee on Privacy and Court
home to a one-year pilot project. Records submitted its final report and
The moratorium was imposed in 2003 recommendations to the court in August
and is set for review in July 2007. It 2005. The Court has ordered that a new
allows online access to dockets, calendars committee, the Committee on Access to
and certain records, such as those related Court Records, be formed to implement
to cases of "significant public interest" or and further study several recommendations.
Redaction of litigation records: Does
the case of Johnson v. Deluz allow the
redaction of litigation records relating
to complaints by students against school
district administrators, teachers or other
employees for physical or sexual abuse so
that such records may be released absent
consent or court order?
AGO 2006-21: Litigation records are
public records that must be released after
student identifying information has been
Static Web site access: May a
municipality respond to a public records
request requiring the production of
thousands of documents by composing
a static Web page where the responsive
public documents are posted for
viewing if the requesting party agrees
to the procedures and agrees to pay the
administrative costs, in lieu of copying the
documents at a much greater cost?
AGO 2006-30: A municipality may
respond to such records requests by
establishing a static Web site.
Local advocacy councils: May
members of a local advocacy council,
who are attending a closed session of the
statewide advocacy council during the
discussion of one of the local council's
cases, remain during the entire closed
session of the statewide advocacy council
which is considering cases from other
advocacy councils unrelated to any of the
local advocacy council's cases?
AGO 2006-34: Members of a local
advocacy council, who are attending a
closed session of the statewide advocacy
council during the discussion of one of
the local council's cases, may not remain
in the closed session when the statewide
advocacy council is considering cases from
other advocacy councils that are unrelated
to the local advocacy council's cases.
2006 FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REPORT
Studies show access to information decreasing
Florida Public Records Audit: A are not required to offer their names, the
statewide public records audit by Florida audit found that names were demanded
news organizations revealed that 42 16 percent of the time. Eighteen percent
percent of local government agencies of the agencies required a form or written
audited violated the state's Public Records request before releasing records.
Law. A Agencies were given an
During a week in February C Chour to tell volunteers that
2006, volunteerjournalists STUDIES the records were public
posed as ordinary citizens and and when they would be
requested records from county available. Nearly 40 percent
governments, city hall, school boards and of the agencies took longer than an hour
sheriff's offices. Volunteers requested to provide that information.
e-mails from the county, city and school Access Legislation Since Sept. 11:
district officials and a log of incoming Public access to government records has
calls at law enforcement agencies. been steadily limited by states since the
Although requesters of public records Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to a
False light issue poised to go
before Florida Supreme Court
PENSACOLA Two appeals courts
have certified questions on the issue of
false light invasion of privacy to the
Florida Supreme Court.
The First District Court of Appeal
reversed an $18.28 million verdict against
the Pensacola News Journal, ruling that
the plaintiff's false light invasion of
privacy claim was governed by the two-
year statute of limitations for
defamation actions. FA
The First District, in
Gannett Co. Inc. v. Joe LIGH
Anderson Jr, certified the
question as one of great
importance and in conflict with Heekin v.
CBS Fi,. ... ,,,; Inc., a case from the
Joe Anderson sued the News Journal
for false light in 2001, three years after
a story stated that he shot and killed his
wife. Two sentences later, the story stated
that the death had been ruled an accident.
Anderson initially sued for libel but
later amended his suit to sue for false light
invasion of privacy.
In Florida, the statute of limitations for
unspecified torts is four years. However,
the First District held that Anderson's
claims weren't materially distinguishable
from a defamation claim, so the two-year
statute of limitations applied.
Because Anderson did not file his suit
within the two-year period, his verdict was
SE The Fourth District,
SE in Rapp v. Jews for Jesus
Inc., certified the question
of whether the tort of false
light was even recognized in
Edith Rapp sued Jews for Jesus after
the organization published a newsletter in
which Rapp's stepson wrote that Rapp, a
Jew, had converted to Christianity.
The Fourth District allowed Rapp's
claims for false light invasion of privacy
and negligent supervision and retention to
proceed but recognized that there is "some
uncertainty in the area" of false light.
Center will celebrate 30 years
The Joseph L. Brechner Center for additional gift to the Marion Brechner
Freedom of Information will host a two- Citizen Access Project to fund a service
day conference in fall 2007 to celebrate to help respond to questions about open
its 30th anniversary. The event also will government legislation.
honor the 40th anniversaries of the federal "The conference will explore the issues
Freedom of Information Act and Florida's and challenges to freedom of information
Sunshine Law. and develop strategies for protecting the
Marion Brechner, wife of the late public's right to know, both in Florida and
Joseph L. Brechner, gave money to fund nationally," said Professor Sandra Chance,
the event. Mrs. Brechner also gave an executive director of the Brechner Center.
50-state study by The Associated Press.
Florida, however, has largely avoided this
The AP study found that legislatures
have passed more than 1,000 access laws
since the attacks. More than twice as many
laws that restrict information were passed
than those that offer greater access to
Florida has actually seen a reduction
in the number of open government
exemptions passed each year, according
to the AP. In the legislative session prior
to the terrorist attacks, 16 new exemptions
were passed in Florida. That total has not
been reached since the attacks.
Annual FOI Report U 2006 3
The Brechner Center for Freedom
of Information's executive director has
been named the McClatchy Professor
in Freedom of Information.
Professor Sandra Chance has been
recognized nationally for her teaching,
research and scholarship in freedom of
Chance has been the Center's
executive director since 2002 and a
member of the University of Florida
faculty since 1993.
"The need for education about
the importance of FOI has never
been greater," Chance said. "The
McClatchy Professorship will help us
significantly in meeting this need."
The McClatchy Company donated
$600,000 for the professorship.
Another $400,000 is expected to be
matched by the state. McClatchy
is the second-largest owner of
newspapers in the United States.
"Free people cannot exist
without free speech and freedom
of information," said Gary Pruitt,
chairman, president and CEO of
Dean Emerita Terry Hynes
expressed her appreciation for the
company's gift. "The professorship
enables us to extend and deepen
the impact of the College's work in
freedom of information," Hynes said.
2006 FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REPORT
Florida access statutes receive additional
exemptions during 2006 legislative session
TALLAHASSEE The following 10
bills enacted during the 2006 legislative
session create new exemptions to the state
Public Records and Open Meetings laws.
Copies of the legislation are available at
the Florida Legislature's Web site (www.
Chief sponsors of the bills are in
parentheses next to the bill numbers.
public records requirements. "Biometric"
is defined as any record of friction
ridge detail, fingerprints, palm prints
and footprints. The exemption applies
retroactively. (Adams, R-Oviedo)
CS/HB 1117 South Florida
Regional Transportation Authority:
Exempts certain documents related to
the acquisition of land by the South
Lawmakers Florida Regional
also enacted or T G I SL T T7 Transportation
reenacted 30 other E Il TV1I V Authority until an
open government- SESSION RE
HB 193 Court
Monitors: Creates a public record
exemption for a court order appointing a
court monitor and the monitor's reports
relating to the health or finances of a
ward. Confidentiality expires if a court
makes a finding of probable cause.
Also creates an exemption for court
determinations relating to a finding of no
probable cause and court orders finding
no probable cause. Such records may be
subject to inspection as determined by the
court. (Bogdanoff R-Fort Lauderdale)
HB 459 Donors Statewide Public
Guardianship Office: Allows donors
or prospective donors to the Statewide
Public Guardianship Office to remain
anonymous. (Sands, D-Weston)
CS/HB 605 Home Addresses
- DJJ Employees: Exempts the home
addresses, phone numbers and photos
of certain active or former Department
of Juvenile Justice employees from the
Public Records Law. Similar information
about employees' spouses and children is
also made exempt. (Planas, R-Miami)
CS/HB 687 Concealed Weapons
Permits: Creates an exemption for
identifying information of applicants
and recipients of concealed weapons
permits. Exempt information can be
disclosed to law enforcement agencies
and commercial entities for the purposes
of law enforcement or homeland security.
Disclosure is allowed under specific
circumstances, such as upon court
order and a showing of good cause. The
exemption applies retroactively. (Adams,
CS/HB 1001 Fingerprint ID
Information: Makes biometric
fingerprint information exempt from
PORT option contract is
executed or until
30 days before a
contract for purchase is considered for
approval by the authority. (Greenstein,
CS/HB 1285 Innovation Incentive
Program: Expands the current
exemption and creates an exemption
for identification numbers, trade
secrets, anticipated and average wages,
proprietary information and stipulated
taxes related to the Innovation Incentive
Program. Also exempts sales percentages
derived from the Department of Defense.
CS/HB 1369 Rejected Bids,
Proposals or Negotiations: Creates an
exemption for rejected bids or proposals
if the agency concurrently provides
notice of its intent to reopen invitations
to bid or requests for proposals. Also
exempts meetings at which negotiations
with vendors are conducted, although a
recording must be made. The recording
enters the public record once the agency
announces a decision or intended
decision on the bid, or until 20 days after
competitive sealed replies are opened,
whichever is earlier. i ,, R-Milton)
HB 1451 Florida Center for Brain
Tumor Research: Exempts individual
medical records and information received
from an individual from another state,
county or the federal government held
by the Florida Center for Brain Tumor
Research. (Gannon, D-Delray Beach)
CS/HB 7161 State Board of
Administration: Exempts proprietary
confidential business information related to
alternative investments of the State Board of
Administration. Thepublic record exemption
applies only when the party submitting the
information provides a written declaration
adhering to specific requirements. Access is
allowed by court order.
Governor vetoes two records bills
passed in 2006 legislative session
TALLAHASSEE Gov. Jeb Bush
vetoed two public records bills passed
by the Florida Legislature during the
The first bill (HB 1097) would have
required government agencies to reply
"promptly" to public records requests.
In his veto message, Bush wrote that
existing law already outlines a standard
for when an agency must respond to
requests "at any reasonable time,
under reasonable conditions."
The bill had the potential to require
agencies to reply without delay,
regardless of the situation, according
to the governor. This could require
the hiring of additional staff, and
the Legislature did not provide any
additional funding, he wrote.
Bush also objected to part of the
bill requiring agency heads to appoint
records custodians and provide notice
of the appointment.
"To the extent the public or
government employees are misled to
believe that only designated persons
can receive record requests, the bill
does not accord with the sprit of public
record law," Bush wrote.
The second bill (CS/SB 1438),
would have allowed the Legislature
to access records with confidential
and exempt status. Bush wrote in his
veto message that by allowing the
Legislature access to such records
maintained by the executive branch,
the separation of powers would be
The bill also would have codified
existing case law on custodial
requirements for confidential and
4 Annual FOI Report U 2006
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CONTINUED
Web site set for 2008 will track federal spending
WASHINGTON D.C. Americans of a Web site to list federal grants and "The Web site will allow our citizens
will be able to better track government contracts greater than $25,000. Funds to go online, type in the name of any
spending online after the passage of a new classified for national security reasons will company, association, or state or locality
law, the Federal Funding Accountability not be included on the Web site. and find out exactly what grants and
and Transparency Act of 2006. By Jan. 1, 2008, the site should be contracts they've been awarded,"
The law calls for the establishment available to the public. President Bush said upon signing the law.
Patriot Act suit
DETROIT A legal challenge to the
USA Patriot Act may proceed in federal
court, according to a ruling by U.S.
District Judge Denise Page Hood.
Hood issued the ruling nearly three
years after she heard arguments in the
case. The American Civil Liberties
Union, on behalf of Muslim organizations,
challenged the constitutionality of the
The ACLU contends its clients were
harmed because fear of the Patriot Act
kept people from attending religious
services or donating to charitable
Plaintiffs in Muslim Community
Association v. Ashcroft specifically
challenge the part of the law that allows
agents to obtain documents such as
individual library book lists and medical
The government argues that the law
does not violate the Fourth Amendment
prohibition on unreasonable searches and
seizures because it applies to items given
to third parties.
Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
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College of Journalism and Communications
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The BrechnerReport is published 12 times a
year under the auspices of the University of Florida
Foundation The Brechner Report is ajoint 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 Soci-
ety of Newspaper Editors and the Joseph L Brechner
Judge allows cameras at trial
ATLANTA Cameras will be needed, the court could adjust the order
permitted during the trial of a man allowing cameras and attach conditions to
accused of killing four people after commercial broadcast coverage.
escaping from an Atlanta courthouse. Nichols was being retried on rape
Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller charges at the Fulton County Courthouse
denied the request of when he grabbed a deputy's
defense attorneys to bar C O RT S gun and escaped from custody.
cameras during the trial. CO Nichols also took a suburban
Attorneys representing Atlanta woman hostage but
Brian Nichols argued that the presence surrendered the following day.
of cameras would inhibit testimony from Prosecutors are seeking the death
witnesses and deny Nichols a fair trial, penalty for the March 2005 incident. The
Fuller said that if it was later trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 11.
Times' silence hurts libel defense
ALEXANDRIA, Va. A federal Former Army scientist Steven Hatfill is
judge will not allow The New York suing The Times for defamation based on
Times to defend itself in a libel suit columns written by Nicholas D. Kristof
using information received by one of its concerning the deadly anthrax mailings of
columnists from two confidential sources. 2001.
The ruling is intended as a sanction Hatfill was named a "person of interest"
against The Times for failing to disclose in the anthrax investigations and claims the
the identities of two Federal Bureau of columns defamed him by suggesting he
Investigation agents. was responsible for the attacks.
Officials decline speech rules
MARTIN COUNTY Martin County
commissioners declined to move forward
with several restrictions on speech during
Instead, county commissioners
voted to ban political campaigning by
commissioners or speakers during public
Commissioners had considered several
restrictions on public speech during
meetings, many of which are used in other
The free speech rights controversy
began in September, when commissioners
stopped a resident from criticizing
a county building official by name.
Commissioners cited a county policy
preventing speakers from referring to
officials by name.
At the advice of the county attorney,
Martin County agreed to back off the
naming ban and allow speakers to use
"I think this has been a good exercise,"
said Commissioner Lee Weberman.
Weberman had criticized the resident
who was stopped from naming the county
building official, according to The Palm
"I think we've found out we've
been doing some things that maybe we
shouldn't. I think we learned that our
employees are going to have to have
thicker skins," Weberman said.
The Brechner Report U January 2007 2
U.S. Supreme Court shc
WASHINGTON Reporters who cover the Supreme
Court were alerted to an unusual event in September
2006: Justice Stephen Breyer would hold a press briefing
to explain the findings of a committee he had headed that
looked into judicial-discipline procedures.
The prospect of a Supreme Court justice's holding
a press conference about anything was rare enough.
But when Breyer entered the Court's press room that
afternoon, he brought Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. with
him. Roberts participated with Breyer, answering a range
of press questions and applauding Breyer's committee
Roberts' cameo appearance is one of a number of signs
that the new chief justice is lifting the veil, ever so slightly, on
The an institution that has long
Coveted its privacy and secrecy.
And because a chief justice
y T often sets the tone for other
By Tony Mauro justices and the Court staff, a
new, somewhat more open climate seems to be unfolding at the
nation's highest court, in contrast to the chillier tone fostered by
Roberts' predecessor and mentor, William Rehnquist.
Whereas Rehnquist held only two or three press conferences
in his entire 19-year tenure carefully controlled events
to boost his perennial campaign for judicial pay increases
- Roberts has already given two in his first year. Before his
September appearance, he held a briefing with reporters in April
when he announced his appointment of James Duff as head of the
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
In addition, as Roberts began his second year in office last
month, the Court also announced that it had made arrangements
to release publicly the transcripts of oral arguments within
hours after they conclude. Journalists and scholars have long
complained about the leisurely pace of the release of oral-
argument resources; transcripts had been made available 10 days
after the fact, and anyone wanting to hear tapes would generally
have to wait months, until after the term ended, before they could
be heard at the National Archives.
Starting with the first oral arguments Oct. 3, transcripts were
indeed online within hours, enabling reporters to include more
ws signs of less secrecy
precise quotes in their accounts than previously possible.
Rehnquist, who died in September 2005, was cordial,
sometimes friendly, and grudgingly helpful to the press.
He gave his blessing to Information Age advances such
as a user-friendly Web site that has greatly benefited the
press and public alike. But Rehnquist's starting point was
a view that, as he once told a group of reporters, "We
don't need you people" in the same way that the elected
auro branches of government need the news media.
If pressed, Roberts might not totally disagree with
Rehnquist's stance, but he seems more willing to find
ways in which the call for greater access and accountability can
be met without threatening justices' privacy and security needs.
Before he was a judge, Roberts was a noted appellate lawyer
who argued before the high court and was generally accessible to
But in spite of the new signs of a more public face for the
Court, it is clear that an era of glasnost has not fully blossomed.
Routine, quick release of all oral-argument audiotapes, for
example, still seems some distance away. Similarly, the justices
are still as reluctant as ever to explain their reasons for recusing
themselves from a case.
And the long-running campaign by access advocates to
persuade the justices to allow broadcast coverage of Court
proceedings appears no closer to success. Asked about cameras
in the Court at a judicial conference in California in July, Roberts
said the justices, in their role as stewards of the Court as an
institution, were very cautious about making such a change.
"I appreciate very much the argument that the public would
benefit greatly from seeing how we do things," Roberts added.
"But we don't have oral arguments to show people how we
function. We have them to learn about a particular case, in a
particular way that we think is important."
Tony Mauro, based in Washington, D.C., is special
correspondent for the FirstAmendment Center Online, providing
analysis of Supreme Court cases pertaining to First Amendment
issues. A veteran reporter covering the high court, Mauro is
Supreme Court correspondentfor Legal Times and American