Public Access and Litigation Policy
The FLCGA provides assistance to citizens and journalists seeking access to government information. Such assistance may include drafting public record requests and responding to government responses to those requests with the goal of ensuring that those seeking access to government information are able to obtain public records in a timely and cost-effective manner
PUBLIC ACCESS LITIGATION POLICY
DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
1. The Public Access Director reports directly to the Executive Director and has primary responsibility for:
a. establishing a panel of subject matter experts on access to public records and meetings (“Legal Panel”);
b. making requests for access to records on behalf of FLCGA and those who contact FLCGA seeking assistance;
c. providing periodic reports to the Executive Director on the activities of the Legal Panel and the Public Access program;
d. in consultation with the Legal Panel, and in accordance with the policies further described below, determining whether FLCGA should participate in litigation either in the name of the FLCGA or through a network of cooperating attorneys; and
e. such other tasks as directed by the Executive Director or the FLCGA Board of Trustees.
2. The Public Access Program Director will identity any conflicts of interest or potential conflicts with other FLCGA program initiatives and/or litigation and bring those conflicts or potential conflicts to the attention of the Executive Director and the Board of Trustees.
1. All litigation in which FLCGA is a party or is involved in securing the assistance of cooperating attorneys for a citizen is subject to these policies. Any other litigation is unauthorized and FLCGA expressly disclaims any and all liability, to the extent permitted by law, in connection with any such other litigation. Other provisions of this policy govern attorney’s fees and costs and apply in all cases.
2. The Board of Trustees of the Florida Center for Government Accountability (FLCGA) retains ultimate authority to decide whether FLCGA will undertake representation, and delegates that authority as set forth below. Decisions delegated to the Legal Panel, Executive Director or Public Access Director by these policies may be appealed to the FLCGA Board of Trustees. However, litigation which may result in significant media coverage must be approved by a majority vote of the FLCGA Board of Trustees by a majority vote.
3. Between board meetings, the FLCGA Board of Trustees delegates the authority to undertake representation to the FLCGA Legal Panel with the exception as noted above. The FLCGA Legal Panel may not approve representation in direct conflict with polices adopted by FLCGA.
4. The FLCGA may undertake representation in cases in which a potential client cannot fund the cost of the litigation if the Executive Director determines that FLCGA has sufficient funds to advance the costs of litigation.
5. The FLCGA may undertake representation only with the approval of FLCGA Legal Panel acting on behalf of the Board of Trustees. The FLCGA Legal Panel may act through in-person meetings, electronic mail, by telephone, or by electronic video meetings. Minutes of all such meetings must be taken and retained. When circumstances require emergency representation and preclude prior submission to the FLCGA Legal Panel, the Public Access Director and Executive Director in consultation with each other are authorized to grant approval pending submission to the FLCGA Legal Panel. The Public Access Director or Executive Director must report decisions made by the FLCGA Legal Panel to the Board. In any case in which FLCGA has not yet filed papers obliging it to continue representation, the board may by a vote of disapproval overrule the FLCGA Legal Panel and FLCGA will in that event withdraw from representation, consistent with the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.
6. In every case undertaken by FLCGA a signed retainer agreement must be executed. The retainer agreement shall be in a form approved by the Executive Director. A retainer agreement executed by a client must be submitted to the Executive Director for his/her signature and is not effective until signed by the Executive Director, or in his/her absence, the Public Access Director.
7. FLCGA is neither a government agency nor a general legal services organization. The FLCGA does not handle cases that involve public access to information or meetings of private entities or organizations unless the information sought relates to the performance of work on behalf of a governmental entity.
Guidelines for Accepting Cases
Before accepting cases for direct representation or amicus participation, the FLCGA Legal Panel will consider the following:
1. Does the case raise an issue involving public access to information or meetings?
2. The nature of the public access issue implicated, including:
a. What is the likelihood that the court will reach the issue?
b. Whether the case is a question of law or facts. Preference is given to cases that do not involve complicated disputes of fact and prefers cases that involve questions of law only.
c. Does the case fit within stated FLCGA policies?
3. The potential impact, including:
a. Will the case set a precedent?
b. Will the case strengthen an existing but ignored precedent?
c. What are the prospects of success and the risks of losing?
d. How likely is the issue to recur?
e. What educational and organizational opportunities will the case present?
f. Does the case have a significant effect for a large number of people?
4. The possible duplication of effort, including:
a. If direct representation is sought, will the prospective client be able to obtain counsel other than a FLCGA volunteer attorney?
b. Will that attorney raise the public access issue?
5. If amicus participation is sought, is participation by FLCGA necessary for a complete exposition of the public access issue? Will participation by FLCGA serve the purpose of making the court more sensitive to the issue, even if FLCGA introduces no new arguments?
6. The allocation of resources, including:
a. What costs and administrative burdens will the case impose in relation to available FLCGA staff and funds?
b. Are volunteer attorneys available?
7. The FLCGA Executive Director and Public Access Program Director are encouraged to apply for grants to fund litigation, whether out-of-pocket costs or attorney fees or both.