The Florida Supreme Court is refusing to hear a lawsuit over the state’s blind trust laws.
Blind trusts have been used over the years by public officials to hide their assets from themselves in order to avoid conflict-of-interest allegations. The lawsuit claims those trusts are unconstitutional and the issue now goes to a circuit court. Former FSU President Sandy D’Alemberte filed the case on behalf of the late Governor Rubin Askew’s chief of staff.
“We obviously believe blind trusts cannot be full and public disclosure, which the constitution requires,” D’Alemberte says.
In it’s ruling the Florida Supreme Court says the decision to move the case to a lower court, “should not be construed as an adjudication or comment on the merits of the petition, nor as a determination that the transferee court has jurisdiction or that the petition has been properly denominated as a petition for a writ of mandamus.”
In a statement on the Court’s decision, Jim Apthorp, the plaintiff in the case and former chief-of-staff to the late Gov. Ruebin Askew who championed the Sunshine Amendment, said in a statement, “We are confident our attorneys and ethics advocates who have joined our case will prevail when the case is tried in the circuit court. We urge the circuit court to expedite legal proceedings in this important case.”
The state is asking the courts to dismiss the lawsuit. It hinges on whether a 2013 law codifying an earlier ruling on blind trusts by the state ethics commission violates the state’s open government constitutional amendments. The state questions the timeliness of the lawsuit, and says blind trusts have been in use for years and have been vetted.