Fall 2009

Florida Supreme Court Rejects Proposed Amendments That Would Limit Access to Electronic Court Records

Holland & Knight Newsletter
Judith M. Mercier

Citing Florida’s well established and long standing presumption of openness, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously rejected proposed amendments to the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration which would have restricted disclosure of electronic records of court proceedings.

The proposed amendments included deleting “electronic records, videotapes, or stenographic tapes of court proceedings” from the definition of “court records” and limiting disclosure of electronic records to certain circumstances in the discretion of the court or the chief judge. These amendments were proposed by the Commission on Trial Court Performance and Accountability in response to concerns about the “potential disclosure of confidential discourse that was inadvertently captured on digital recordings and the poor quality of transcripts prepared from digital recordings by untrained transcriptionists.”

Although the Court acknowledged the “strong policy and practical concerns on both sides of this issue,” it made clear that such amendments were “overly restrictive” and “contrary to Florida’s well established public policy of government in the sunshine and this Court’s longstanding presumption in favor of openness for all court proceedings and allowing access to records of those proceedings. … Access to these recordings should not be denied or left to the unfettered discretion of the trial court of the chief judge.

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