STATE CAPITAL BRIEFS (LUNCH EDITION): WEDNESDAY, JULY 8, 2015
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
HOSPITAL APPEAL REJECTED IN PUBLIC RECORDS CASE
An appeals court Wednesday upheld a ruling that a North Florida hospital authority violated the state’s public-records law by placing unreasonable restrictions on a resident’s access to documents. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Columbia County resident Stewart Lilker, who filed a public-records lawsuit against the Lake Shore Hospital Authority in Lake City. A circuit judge ruled that the authority violated the law, in part, by restricting Lilker’s right to inspect and copy records to one hour a day and requiring him to give a 24-hour notice. “While the (records) custodian may reasonably restrict inspection to those hours during which his or her office is open to the public, appellants (the authority) have gone much further by limiting appellee’s (Lilker’s) access to a single hour on weekday mornings,” said the appeals-court decision by judges Stephanie Ray, Ronald Swanson and Scott Makar. “Clearly, this hampered appellee’s right to inspect the records in appellants’ custody ‘at any reasonable time.’ Moreover, there is no authority allowing appellants to automatically delay production of records for inspection by imposing a 24-hour notice requirement.” The ruling said the hospital authority also improperly referred Lilker to a website in response to a public-records request. While Lilker initially sought electronic access, he ultimately asked for paper copies. The appeals court quoted part of state law that said electronic access is an “additional means” of inspecting or copying records. “This additional means of access, however, is insufficient where the person requesting the records specifies the traditional method of access via paper copies,” the appeals court ruled.