The Miami Herald published a blockbuster report on Saturday evening documenting the extraordinary steps Florida’s Republican governor went through to keep COVID-19 information from the public.
“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 newspaper reported.
“The back-door pressure — through an attorney that 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,” the newspaper reported.
The newspaper’s publisher and executive editor, Aminda Marqués González, vowed the suit would still be filed by a different law firm.
“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 newspaper explained that their suit did not seek the names of those who have tested positive, only whether anyone at a facility had a positive result.
“For people with parents and grandparents 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 newspaper explained. “The state has yet to provide a legal justification for its refusal to provide records. Under Florida’s public records law, records are considered public unless the custodian can provide a legal basis for withholding them.”
Take a moment to understand what the Florida Governor's office did in this moment, and also what a preeminent law firm did to comply with his request.
— David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) April 12, 2020