The Supreme Court of Florida refused to block public access to electronic records of court proceedings, in a unanimous decision released Thursday.
The court rejected amendments that had been recommended by a judicial rules committee to remove "electronic records, videotapes, or stenographic tapes of court proceedings" from the meaning of "court records," which are open to the public. Under the proposed rule, electronic records would have been released only under certain circumstances and at the court’s discretion.
Noting that such a rule would deny the public access to records of open proceedings, the court concluded: "Such a provision is overly restrictive and is contrary to Florida‘s well established public policy of government in the sunshine and this Court‘s longstanding presumption in favor of openness for all court proceedings and allowing access to records of those proceedings."
The court expressed concern with granting judges "unfettered discretion" over access to recordings, citing a May ruling by a lower Florida court which found that an unedited audio recording was not a court record for access purposes.