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I live in Florida where we have supposedly very good Open Records laws, however, governments ignore them and hide documents and corruption from the public.  Unfortunately, the ONLY "enforcement" of this great "open records" law is if the consumer files a civil litigation to obtain the requested records and hold the government agency accountable. Most agencies don't give a damn and will violate this law without a second thought under the presumption nobody will do anything about it.  

   Within Florida Statute Title X, Chapter 119, the statute calls for automatic recovery of all attorney's fees and expenses if it is proven that the government agency violated Title X, Chapter 119 in even the slightest way.  Each litigation costs about $400 in filing fees to file.  I have made over 500 records requests from our local sheriff that he has clearly violated Title X, Chapter 119 and refused to produce these requested records. Each one of these can be a separate civil suit, or they can be bundled into groups for a litigation.  The cases can be kept very simple.  

Example:  I recently asked the Sheriff for the costs associated with his travel to another Florida county for a publicised meeting.  After waiting about a week I was told "there are no records responsive".  I followed up with "Well, he didn't get there for free, so there most be SOME records associated with his travel to this meeting, and I sent them a "five day notice of intent to file suit" which is required here in Florida before you can sue and collect attorney's fees.  In response, I received a notice that they now wanted to charge me 75 minutes of labor to produce the same records that they claimed did not exist. That's an hour and fifteen minutes to produce a gas card receipt or a plane ticket or some other proof of what the cost to transport him there was. Now, clearly, that is not a valid request and high fees is yet another way that they block records being produced. But the simple fact that they claimed no records existed, when records did exist is a clear violation of Title X, Chapter 119.  This is an automatic "win" and automatic attorney's fees. This case can be filed, argued, litigated and tried in a few short months and the attorney handling the case gets paid for their fees, time and expenses. 

There are literally thousands of these cases available to any lawyer that wants them.  A new lawyer just starting out can literally have a couple of dozen of these going at the same time and have as many billable hours as they wish.  Yet, with all of this, there are no lawyers that handle these cases, they act like they have no idea what you are talking about and nobody will take them and file them. Why?  

I can provide the cases, the documents, and evidence of actual fraud by these agencies in their "estimate" practices.  All I want is for the government agencies to provide public records in accordance with the law. 

Is there a lawyer in the Tampa Bay Area that would be interested in a couple of years worth of billable hours? 

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On 8/26/2019 at 6:32 PM, RetiredinVA said:

Attorney's fees are not awarded for frivolous requests, such as for gas receipts for travel to a meeting.

They ARE awarded when the government agency LIED that no records existed when they did in fact exist.  That one single clear violation is all it takes to obtain the attorney's fees, REGARDLESS of what records were requested.  That's why these cases are so easy to win. 

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17 minutes ago, Sheriff James said:

They ARE awarded when the government agency LIED that no records existed when they did in fact exist.  That one single clear violation is all it takes to obtain the attorney's fees, REGARDLESS of what records were requested.  That's why these cases are so easy to win. 

 

If that were the case Florida lawyers would have rooms full of people requesting documents 24/7 so they could sue and collect the fee.

 

This is true of any state but for Florida there is no doubt.

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1 hour ago, Sheriff James said:

They ARE awarded when the government agency LIED that no records existed when they did in fact exist.  That one single clear violation is all it takes to obtain the attorney's fees, REGARDLESS of what records were requested.  That's why these cases are so easy to win. 

 

Cool...do you have a question that hasn't already been addressed (or any point whatsoever)?

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8 hours ago, PayrollHRGuy said:

 

If that were the case Florida lawyers would have rooms full of people requesting documents 24/7 so they could sue and collect the fee.

 

This is true of any state but for Florida there is no doubt.

What do you mean "is that true"?  Look up the law and read it. 

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On 8/26/2019 at 3:19 PM, Sheriff James said:

Is there a lawyer in the Tampa Bay Area that would be interested in a couple of years worth of billable hours? 

 

There are certainly lawyers in that area who would be interested in that. The problem is that these open records cases are not nearly as easy to win as you make it them out to be. Florida's law is not unlike the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which governs disclosure of agency records to the public. And I can tell you from personal experience with FOIA that battling government agencies on these disclosure matters can take extensive litigation with a lot of hours invested and often no guarantee of winning. The government knows what records exist and what records do not exist, and what effort it will take to provide the records they do have. You don't. That puts you at a bit of a disadvantage.

 

You do have the advantage that Florida is much more liberal in awarding the attorneys fees when you prevail than Florida law is. But still, you have to win the case first before the award of attorney's fees will be an option. Now, if you offer to front the legal fees (pay the hourly expenses) during the litigation and then you get the check for the attorney's fees that the court awards should you win, I imagine you'll find a lot more interest. My guess, though, is that you have been contacting firms asking them to front the costs and telling them that they should be happy to do that because you are convinced they'll get their fees awarded in the end. Well, you can be convinced of that happy outcome a little easier when you aren't fronting the costs. For the law firms, they will not be so sure of that.

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5 hours ago, Tax_Counsel said:

 

There are certainly lawyers in that area who would be interested in that. The problem is that these open records cases are not nearly as easy to win as you make it them out to be. Florida's law is not unlike the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which governs disclosure of agency records to the public. And I can tell you from personal experience with FOIA that battling government agencies on these disclosure matters can take extensive litigation with a lot of hours invested and often no guarantee of winning. The government knows what records exist and what records do not exist, and what effort it will take to provide the records they do have. You don't. That puts you at a bit of a disadvantage.

 

You do have the advantage that Florida is much more liberal in awarding the attorneys fees when you prevail than Florida law is. But still, you have to win the case first before the award of attorney's fees will be an option. Now, if you offer to front the legal fees (pay the hourly expenses) during the litigation and then you get the check for the attorney's fees that the court awards should you win, I imagine you'll find a lot more interest. My guess, though, is that you have been contacting firms asking them to front the costs and telling them that they should be happy to do that because you are convinced they'll get their fees awarded in the end. Well, you can be convinced of that happy outcome a little easier when you aren't fronting the costs. For the law firms, they will not be so sure of that.


As far as winning, you only file cases where there is a clear and simple violation guaranteeing both a win and fees. The award of attorney's fees is automatic within the law. Unlike other cases where the court "may" award these fees, in Title X, Chapter 119 cases they "shall" award these fees if there is a violation. Any violation. I have dozens of cases where the violations are identical.  So boilerplate litigations are possible with the same facts over and over again with only the date of the records request changing. This type of litigation would not appeal to an attorney that has personal injury cases lined up out their front door.  But they sure beat sitting at your office doing nothing that you could possibly bill for.

The cases follow the same pattern.  File the case, they file a Motion to Dismiss, have a hearing on the motion to dismiss, win.  You file discovery, they refuse to answer a single question, you file a Motion to Compel.  You may want to take a few depositions. Then file a Motion for Summary judgement, move on to the next.  You can take it to trial if you want more hours per case. 

The problem here in Florida is that the ONLY form of remedy for a government agency that refuses to provide Title X, Chapter 119 records is a consumer litigation. Without lawyers willing to take these cases, there  is no "open records access" here in Florida.   

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If it was that easy and lucrative, I can guarantee you there would be lawyers all over these cases.  Also, if it were that simple, why would they need you? Dealing with a client whose hobby is harassing the local sheriff with hundeds of trivial records requests would be a non-starter in my case.

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If it was that easy and lucrative, I can guarantee you there would be lawyers all over these cases.  Also, if it were that simple, why would they need you? Dealing with a client whose hobby is harassing the local sheriff with hundeds of trivial records requests would be a non-starter in my case.

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2 hours ago, Sheriff James said:


The cases follow the same pattern.  File the case, they file a Motion to Dismiss, have a hearing on the motion to dismiss, win.  You file discovery, they refuse to answer a single question, you file a Motion to Compel.  You may want to take a few depositions. Then file a Motion for Summary judgement, move on to the next.  You can take it to trial if you want more hours per case. 

 

Since it's that easy, put your $400 per case where your mouth is and do it yourself.

 

I repeat somebody else's question (which you ignored):

 

How many have you won?

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What if the Sheriff drove there in his own car and never submitted a reimbursement request for gasoline? What record do you think there would be then?

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7 hours ago, Sheriff James said:

This type of litigation would not appeal to an attorney that has personal injury cases lined up out their front door.  But they sure beat sitting at your office doing nothing that you could possibly bill for.

 

Then these cases are not likely the simple, easy wins that you paint them to be. Again, if you are asking the lawyers to front the cost and bear the risk of the case, they aren't going to be interested unless there is a pretty high chance of winning sufficient legal fees to make it worthwhile. My experience in this type of litigation tells me that such cases are not the slam dunks you think they are because going into them you don't know what the agency does. But if you are correct that the win is that certain, why not pay the lawyer's hourly fee for it during the course of litigation, confident that you'll get your money refunded back at the end? I'm betting you'd see much better response if you did that.

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