At 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, use your computer to watch the live-stream of the next episode in Gina Edwards’ long court battle with Collier County Clerk of Courts Dwight Brock over public access fees. Here’s the url: http://www.2dca.org/OralArgumentCalendar/oa-streaming.shtml.
Why does this matter and why should Edwards’ fellow NPC members care? Simple enough questions that require a complicated answer. Here goes:
Brock appealed after investigative journalist Edwards, the founder of the news web site WatchDogCity.com, twice won favorable rulings in the trial court in her public records lawsuit protesting high fees charged her by Brock’s office for county government records. Edwards filed suit based on two Attorney General opinions and Florida’s “Government in the Sunshine” Manual, which says clerks are required to charge lower fees under Florida’s public records law for county government records. Brock contends that he is governed only by the clerk’s statute and can charge $1 per page for any document in his possession, including for electronic records.
A favorable ruling for Edwards at the appellate level will benefit all Floridians by holding clerks around the state to the lower fee schedule under the public records law, F.S. 119. A win by Brock could raise public records fees on members of the public and journalists around the state—by six fold and more—by allowing clerks to charge significantly higher rates for county government records, whether in paper or electronic format.
Oral arguments will be held before the Second District Court of Appeal justices on May 6 at the Stetson University College of Law in Tampa. “We’re gratified that the Second DCA considers this case important and has agreed to hear oral arguments,” Edwards said in a statement. The court’s oral arguments can be viewed by the public live-streamed online on the court’s web site at the link provided above.
In a new public-records policy posted online, Brock concedes that Edwards’ initial suit was correct. He has already spent $67,000 in county tax dollars on legal bills to fight over the $556 he billed Edwards, which motivated her suit.
You can find more background on the case and read the appellate filings from both sides, by clicking the link http://www.watchdogcity.com/newsstandstoryinfo/496-Appeal-Court-to-hear-oral-arguments-in-Watchdog-City-journalists-public-records-suit-v-Clerk-Brock.htm.