Wednesday, May 08, 2024

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: DeSantis lawyer tells appeals judges governor has 'executive privilege' to conceal records. (USA Today Network Florida)

The controlling legal authority is Florida Constitution Article I, Section 24, adopted by 83% of Florida voters in 1992 (3. 8 million voters). Our disgraceful former Congressman from St. Johns County is asking. the courts to violate our Florida Constitution and make new law out of whole cloth.  There is no "executive privilege" in Florida law.  Yes, my friends, our bumptious Boy Governor is wrong, again.  From USA Today Network:

DeSantis lawyer tells appeals judges governor has 'executive privilege' to conceal records

'It opens the door, really, to what I would think is the destruction of the right to view executive branch government records,' the plaintiff's attorney says.

Douglas Soule

An attorney representing Ron DeSantis argued in a state appeals court Tuesday that the governor has "executive privilege," a power that would potentially allow him to conceal a broad swath of records from the public.

There's no precedent for executive privilege in Florida. Yet its existence, at least as found by a Tallahassee trial judge, is one of the arguments the governor's office is using to justify its refusal to release information about how DeSantis selects justices for the state Supreme Court, making it one of the most conservative in the nation.

"Our understanding of what executive privilege means is that it (covers) documents whose disclosure would threaten the confidentiality that is necessary to perform a enumerated constitutional duty," Senior Deputy Solicitor General Nathan Forrester told a trio of 1st District Court of Appeal judges, none of whom were appointed by DeSantis.

The 1st District Court of Appeal building.

That viewpoint has government transparency advocates and media groups worried about a dramatic limitation of the public’s ability to get information in Florida, which has constitutionally-enshrined public records rights long-lauded for their transparency.

Executive privilege is best known as the legal concept, based on separation of powers, that allows the president of the United States to withhold information from Congress, the courts and the public in certain circumstances. It's perhaps best known for President Richard Nixon's attempts to invoke it during the Watergate scandal.

Leon Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey sided with DeSantis last year, setting up the Tuesday oral arguments in the Tallahassee appeals court. It's a high-stakes case, according to lawyers opposing the state.

Attorney Phil Padovano warned reporters after the hearing that the governor would cite executive privilege in "thousands of cases" if allowed.

"It opens the door, really, to what I would think is the destruction of the right to view executive branch government records," said Padovano, himself a retired 1st District Court of Appeal judge now in private practice. "They just want to say, 'I'm the governor. (You) can't get the records.' "

In 1992, Floridians approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing public access to records and meetings of the executive, judicial and legislative branches.

Judge Clay Roberts, appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007, mentioned that amendment to Forrester, who denied it prevented the governor's office from keeping certain documents confidential.

What prompted the case?

In his closing, Padovano asked the judges to consider whether the state's argument made "any sense."

"Does it make any sense that the governor of Florida could convene a secret meeting to help him appoint justices to our Supreme Court, and that somehow the records of that meeting ... could somehow evade the constitutional right to access public records?" he said.

DeSantis has publicly said he convened “a group of people I trust” to help him pick justices. He described the group as being made up of “six or seven pretty big legal conservative heavyweights," but refused to name them.

Padovano is representing an anonymous individual — referred to as J. Doe in the case — who sent a public records request to the governor's office trying to get their names. The individual requested communications between the office and those "heavyweights."

That request was denied, prompting the lawsuit.

But will the decision even address executive privilege?

The stakes may be high, but there's a chance the judges' ruling doesn't even touch on the governor's powers, instead focusing on other arguments. That means, however, there would still be no state-based executive privilege in Florida, since the circuit decision isn't binding.

"There are a lot of issues in this case," Roberts said. "I think way before we get to executive privilege, we need to talk about some of these others."

The sides debated whether the public records request was validly written, with Roberts saying it "seems to me" that its framing may go beyond the typical request by not just requiring records but also someone to ask the governor who the "heavyweights" were.

Also a point of contention: Whether it was proper for an anonymous person, in this circumstance, to request public records and then to sue.

But Padovano asked the court not to ignore the executive privilege argument, even if the circuit decision didn't set a precedent.

"I have debated myself and thought about myself, 'Is it better just to leave it alone?'" he said. "I concluded that it's not, because people who are scholars in this area pay attention to circuit court opinions."

More on the argument:In 'big deal' case, DeSantis argues he can invoke 'executive privilege' to conceal records

DeSantis repeatedly sued for records:Florida Governor Ron DeSantis accused of lack of transparency, sued again in Tallahassee

This reporting content is supported by a partnership with Freedom Forum and Journalism Funding Partners. USA TODAY Network-Florida First Amendment reporter Douglas Soule can be reached at

1 comment:

Bob said...

That's like saying that just because someone is elected or gets a job in government, they can do whatever they want. That's a big problem in this country and just goes to show you what these Republicans are really all about. They sell themselves as being for rights, freedoms, and liberties but you see what they do when they get into office. And they complain about the federal government being a certain way and they act and behave the same way.