A Florida Bar committee is proposing a rule that would eliminate access to recordings of court proceedings.
For decades, many Florida courts have provided recordings of court proceedings to the public. The recordings are available more quickly than a written transcript, and typically cost a few dollars rather than hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a transcript.
Now, the Commission on Trial Court Performance and Accountability is asking the Florida Supreme Court to approve a new rule under which recordings could only be released with explicit judicial approval, and only after editing.
Those proposing the rule say allowing public access to the recordings risks the accidental disclosure of personal information, such as Social Security numbers and off-the-record conversations.
“Saying ‘Hey Joe, how’s that affair you’re having?’ is now part of the record,” Palm Beach County Chief Judge Kathleen Kroll, a member of the commission proposing the rule, told The Palm Beach Post.
But others see the rule as an attempt by Florida judges to prevent behavior they later regret from ending up on television or the Internet.
“They don’t want their public behavior memorialized,” public defender Tony Natale told The Post. “It’s precisely to protect them.”
Final comments on the proposed rule are due Monday, November 3. The Florida Association of Public Defenders says it plans to file comments criticizing the rule change, saying that public defenders rely on the recordings and cannot afford pricey transcripts.
First Amendment advocates also plan to file comments opposing the change. Carol J. LoCicero, a media lawyer and partner at Thomas & LoCicero PL in Tampa, said the new rule violates Florida’s constitution and undermines the ability of citizens “to know what’s going on in their own court system.”