This document provides a template for journalists seeking to compel a public agency to turn over records requested under the Florida Public Records Law. The template provides an outline for complaints to be filed in circuit court. Filing a complaint with the circuit court is one of two remedies available under the Florida Public Records Law. The other remedy available is to participate in a voluntary mediation program. A journalist seeking access to documents should consider both options:
1. Participate in a voluntary mediation program.1
An informal mediation program within the Office of the Attorney General is available as an alternative to using the court system to resolve disputes with the government. Mediation is a formal but non-adversarial process that aims to help the disputing parties reach agreement. If the journalist and the government agency in question consent to use this program, the state Office of the Attorney General will appoint a third-party mediator to facilitate the resolution of the public records dispute in question.
For more information about this voluntary mediation program, contact the Office of the Attorney General at (850) 245-0140 or visit the Florida Office of the Attorney General mediation website.
2. File a writ of mandamus.2
A person who has been denied the right to inspect or copy public records may bring a civil action against the agency. In almost all cases, a person should bring this civil action by filing a petition for a writ of mandamus in circuit court. This is an extraordinary writ that commands a government official or entity to perform an act. In cases involving the requested production of public records, the writ of mandamus would command the custodian of the requested records within the state agency to turn over the requested records. If a writ is issued, the court may also award reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees to the petitioner.
1 Fla. Stat. § 16.60.
2 Fla. Stat. § 119.12.