The Senate next week could approve a bill that seeks to resolve a long-running debate about awarding attorney fees in public-records lawsuits. State law requires judges to award attorney fees to people who successfully file lawsuits against government agencies that have improperly withheld public records. Local governments contend the law is being abused by people who inundate government agencies with public-records requests as a strategy to file lawsuits and receive attorney fees or settlements.
The News Service of Florida
March 23, 2016
The Senate on Thursday took up an attempted compromise (SB 80), sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, that would keep in place the requirement that agencies pay attorney fees if they improperly withhold records. But it also includes changes, such as requiring that notice be given at least five days before lawsuits are filed, that could help agencies avoid potential litigation. An initial version of Steube’s bill drew controversy because it would have given discretion to judges in awarding attorney fees in public-records cases — an idea that opponents argued would damage the state’s Sunshine Law. Senators on Thursday took procedural steps that could lead to a vote on the revised bill as soon as Wednesday. [READ MORE]