In previous newsletters, we told you that the First Amendment Foundation intervened in a legal action brought by the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) against the City of Tallahassee. The PBA's action sought to prevent disclosure of the names of two police officers who, in responding to two separate incidents, used deadly force against two citizens. The PBA claimed the two officers ("John Doe 1" and "John Doe 2") were victims of a crime, and their identities should be withheld from public disclosure under Marsy's Law.
FAF intervened in the lawsuit to oppose the PBA, along with the Florida Press Association, Gannett Co., Inc., Miami Herald Media Company, and the New York Times Company. As Intervenors, we argued that Marsy’s Law was not intended to shield the identities of on-duty law enforcement officers.
The trial court ruled in favor of transparency and accountability, concluding that the officers’ names were subject to disclosure under Florida’s public records law. Specifically, the court rejected the PBA's argument, ruling that "Marsy's Law was not intended to apply to law enforcement officers when acting in their official capacity." However, the PBA quickly filed a Notice of Appeal and a Motion to Stay the ruling, to prevent disclosure regarding the two shootings pending appeal. The Motion to Stay was granted, so the action moved on to the First District Court of Appeals.
Along with the City of Tallahassee, we filed a motion at the First DCA seeking expedited appellate review. On August 25th, the First DCA granted our motion and set an expedited briefing schedule. In accordance with that order, all appellate briefs should be filed by early October.
Every week, we are consulted regarding potential violations of public records and open meetings laws around the state. Frequently, we are asked to join in legal actions. We have been fortunate this summer to work with seven talented law students. They helped research legal questions, answered our hotline, and looked for resources to support litigation and training. To those brilliant young legal minds, we are deeply grateful, and we wish you all the best.
Lawsuits are expensive and require resources, but they are necessary in the fight for transparency, open government and justice. The excellent legal work by the lawyers at Thomas & LoCicero in the Marsy's Law litigation on behalf of FAF, FPA and the news media organizations could not be done without your support. Please help us continue to advocate for open government and accountability by making a donation today.