After a state appeals court declined to reconsider its ruling, its decision regarding Florida’s ‘blind trusts’ law now is heading to the state’s Supreme Court.
Plaintiff Jim Apthorp, former chief of staff to the late Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew, on Wednesday asked the high court to review the ruling.
In February, the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee threw out a challenge to the law on procedural grounds.
One judge, however, wrote separately that the law “may likely be incompatible” with the state constitution.
Blind trusts shield their beneficiaries from knowing where money is coming from to avoid conflicts of interest.
The law at issue allows candidates and elected officials to place assets in blind trusts.
Askew, Florida’s governor from 1971-79, championed passage of the state constitution’s “Sunshine Amendment” in 1976, requiring politicians’ full financial disclosures.
Apthorp argued that the blind trust law, passed in 2013, subverts the amendment.
In essence, he said politicians don’t know the sources of their money in such trusts, but neither does the public – including voters.
The appeals court said a trial judge – who found the law constitutional – shouldn’t have even ruled in the case because there was no “controversy” to determine.
Gov. Rick Scott was the only state official to have used a blind trust, but he shut it down, instead opting to disclose his finances as he qualified for re-election last year.
Since no one else was using a blind trust, there was no need to decide the case, the appeals court said.
Sandy D’Alemberte, Apthorp’s lawyer, urged the court to accept the case.
The law “erodes the constitutional right of citizens to know about the financial interests of public officials,” D’Alemberte said. “If the courts do not hear claims of rights, the provisions of the constitution are without meaning.”
Original article here.