Appeals Court Backs Man In Anonymous Public Records Request

June 16, 2014

Siding with a man who filed public-records requests without giving his name, an appeals court said the city of Greenacres, Fla., could not require him to fill out a form before obtaining the documents.

The 4th District Court of Appeal overturned a lower-court decision to dismiss the case filed by Joel Edward Chandler. The case stemmed from public-records requests that were submitted by email to the city but did not include the name of the sender.

The city clerk responded that the sender needed to fill out a form on the city website before receiving the documents. The form was not filled out and, ultimately, a lawsuit was filed under the state’s public-records law.

The city argued, in part, that it did not improperly block access to the records but that filling out the form was required as part of the process to obtain payment for costs associated with providing the documents, according to the ruling. But a three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected those arguments.

“In sum, the city could not properly condition disclosure of the public records to the then-anonymous requester on filling out the city’s form and giving an ‘address or other identifiable source for payment of the associated costs,’ ” said the opinion, written by Judge Martha Warner and joined by judges Melanie May and Spencer Levine. “The city could have sent an estimate of costs through e-mail to the requester just as it could through regular mail, had the request been made via paper by an anonymous requester. Requiring appellant (Chandler) to provide further identifying information prior to disclosure could have a chilling effect on access to public records and is not required by the Public Records Act.”

by The News Service of Florida


2 Responses to “Appeals Court Backs Man In Anonymous Public Records Request”

  1. William on June 17th, 2014 5:38 am

    Public means public. It’s part of living in a free society. If the records are open to the public (as most should be) then it doesn’t matter if John Doe reads them or Vladamir Putin does.

  2. melodies4us on June 16th, 2014 1:33 pm

    …so now public records are going to be given to any non-tractable criminal or illegal terrorist that wants it ? Only in the USA :(

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