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State Attorney's Office of Seventeenth Judicial Circuit v. Cable News Network, Inc.

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

August 3, 2018

STATE ATTORNEY'S OFFICE OF THE SEVENTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT and SCHOOL BOARD OF BROWARD COUNTY, Appellants,
v.
CABLE NEWS NETWORK, INC., MIAMI HERALD MEDIA COMPANY, SUN-SENTINEL COMPANY, LLC, ABC, INC., THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, THE BRADENTON HERALD, THE FIRST AMENDMENT FOUNDATION, FLORIDA PRESS ASSOCIATION, GANNETT COMPANY, INC., LOS ANGELES TIMES COMMUNICATIONS LLC, THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY, ORLANDO SENTINEL COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY, LLC, BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, and SCOTT ISRAEL, in his official capacity as Broward County Sheriff, Appellees.

          Consolidated appeals from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Jeffrey R. Levenson, Judge; L.T. Case No. CACE 18-004429 (09).

          Michael J. Satz, State Attorney, and Joel Silvershein, Assistant State Attorney, Fort Lauderdale, for appellant, State Attorney's Office of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit.

          Eugene K. Pettis and Debra Potter Klauber of Haliczer, Pettis & Schwamm, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for appellant, School Board of Broward County.

          Dana J. McElroy, James J. McGuire, and Jon M. Philipson of Thomas & LoCicero, PL, Fort Lauderdale, for appellees, Cable News Network, Inc.; Miami Herald Media Company; and Sun-Sentinel Company, LLC, ABC, Inc.; The Associated Press; The Bradenton Herald; the First Amendment Foundation; the Florida Press Association; Gannett Co., Inc.; Los Angeles Times Communications LLC; The New York Times Company; and Orlando Sentinel Communications Company, LLC.

         ON MOTION TO CERTIFY QUESTION OF GREAT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

          Gross, J.

         We deny the School Board's motion for certification. Because the holding in this case is carefully tailored to the specific facts of this case, the decision does not pass on a legal issue of great public importance.

         By its motion, the School Board seeks to invoke the Supreme Court's discretionary jurisdiction. The Supreme Court "[m]ay review any decision of a district court of appeal that passes upon a question certified by it to be of great public importance. . . ." Art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const.; see Fla. R. App. P. 9.030(a)(2)(A)(v). The suggested question submitted by the School Board reads:

When it is determined that a public records request "relates directly" to a security system, and is otherwise confidential and exempt from disclosure to the public under §§ 119.071(3)(a) and 281.301(1), whether the "good cause" exception to that exemption requires a showing of more than the public's need for the information.

         An issue is not "of great public importance" where the issue is important only to the parties involved. See generally Ansin v. Thurston, 101 So.2d 808, 811 (Fla. 1958). Where resolution of the question requires "consideration of a narrow issue with very unique facts," the Supreme Court will decline certification review. Dade Cty. Prop. Appraiser v. Lisboa, 737 So.2d 1078 (Mem.) (Fla. 1999); see also State v. Sowell, 734 So.2d 421, 422 (Fla. 1999) (finding jurisdiction improvidently granted where question "deals with an extremely narrow principle of law, and, as phrased, does not present an issue of 'great public importance.'"). In addition, the district courts are discouraged from asking the Supreme Court to - "in essence . . . check [their] work." Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. v. Ballard, 749 So.2d 483, 485 n.3 (Fla. 1999) ("Although we accepted review in this case, the certified question appears to be more of a request for our approval of the conclusion reached by the court below than an issue involving great public importance.").

         In its motion seeking certification, the School Board advances the following arguments:

• The opinion obviates the statutory exemption put in place to maintain safety and security of public buildings.
• The decision could impact every child attending public school in Florida (2, 804, 865 in Florida; 269, 610 in Broward).

         Addressing the first argument, this court's opinion did not create the good cause exception to the security plan exemption. The Legislature placed the "good cause" exception in the statute. Our determination affirming the circuit judge's decision that the parties seeking the records established ...


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