Miami Herald by Daniel Chang
April 11, 2020
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ general counsel called a representative of the Miami Herald’s law firm seeking to quash a public records lawsuit that would force the state to divulge the names of all elder-care facilities that have had a positive test for the coronavirus.
The back-door pressure — through an attorney who had no involvement in the case — paid off.
The law firm, Holland & Knight, told Sanford Bohrer, a senior partner with decades of representing the Miami Herald, to stand down and abandon the lawsuit.
“We are disappointed that the governor’s office would go so far as to apply pressure on our legal counsel to prevent the release of public records that are critical to the health and safety of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens,” Marques said. “We shouldn’t have had to resort to legal action in the first place. Anyone with a relative in an elder-care facility has a right to know if their loved ones are at risk so they can make an informed decision about their care.”
The lawsuit did not seek the names of residents or staffers who tested positive.
For people with parents orgrandparents in group homes, the frustration of not knowing which facilities are affected has been compounded by a ban on visitation put in place early in the coronavirus pandemic.
The state has yet to provide a legal justification for its refusal to provide records. Under Florida’s public records law, records are generally considered public unless the custodian can provide a legal basis for withholding them.