The Florida Center for Government Accountability has filed an amicus or “friend of the court” brief with an appeals court to reverse a lower court’s order that allowed Governor Ron DeSantis to block the release of public records by claiming “executive privilege.”
The FLCGA partnered with American Oversight, a national foundation for open records and government accountability, and several of Florida’s advocacy groups, to file the brief in the case, J. Doe v. Governor Ron DeSantis. An amicus brief is a legal document supplied to a court of law containing advice or information relating to a case from a person or organization that is not directly involved in the case.
The organization said the action taken by DeSantis contradicts Florida’s constitution, which famously guarantees a right of access to the records of all three branches of state government and his claim of executive privilege is unprecedented in Florida.
In October 2022, an anonymous requester made a public record request for records relating to the Governor’s appointments to the Florida Supreme Court. When the request was denied, the requester filed suit in civil court, alleging a violation of the Public Records Act, but the trial judge ruled in favor of DeSantis, based on the governor’s claim of executive privilege.
“That a court would block the release of public records absent a specific statutory exemption is worrisome, to say the least,” said Barbara Petersen, FLCGA executive director. “Our constitution is quite clear – only the Legislature can create exceptions to the constitutional right of access to public records, and there is no executive privilege exemption. The trial court’s decision in support of the governor’s assertion of executive privilege flies in the face of our constitutional right of access.”