by the News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders
June 20, 2017
In a long-running dispute that centers on the state’s Sunshine Law, a federal appeals court Tuesday said the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida can delve into information about a police officer’s requests to use cell-phone tracking devices.
The ruling by a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stemmed, in part, from questions about whether Sarasota police detective Michael Jackson was acting as a state law-enforcement officer or as a special deputy U.S. marshal when he sought court orders allowing use of tracking devices.
The distinction is important because Florida’s Sunshine Law, which grants broad access to public records, could allow the ACLU to obtain Jackson’s applications for the devices. The ACLU filed a public-records lawsuit, but a state circuit judge and a U.S. district judge dismissed it because they ruled Jackson was working as a federal officer.
But in an eight-page decision Tuesday, the appeals court said the case was improperly short-circuited and that the ACLU should be able to gather information through the legal “discovery” process. The decision does not resolve the underlying public-records issue but allows the case to move forward. [READ MORE]