Florida law and court rules provide a method by which people with criminal arrest records can expunge or seal the record of arrest because the arrest details can adversely affect a person's life without just cause. See Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.692 and Section 943.059, Florida Statutes, and an associated petition here or here.
943.0581 Administrative expunction.
943.0582 Prearrest, postarrest, or teen court diversion program expunction.
943.0585 Court-ordered expunction of criminal history records.
943.059 Court-ordered sealing of criminal history records.
In 2007 The Supreme court added to Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420 procedures for unsealing civil records sealed, and it required the court give public notice of the sealing and the reason for it. I have attached both the 2009 Rules of Judicial Administration and the Supreme Court ruling sc06-2136 for your reference. And here I provide an excerpt from the rule.
When I read the below excerpt I feel dizzy, queezy, and diffident. Why? Because the Supreme Court seems to shilly-shally away from the issue of rank corruption in the courts. Note the public disclosure exceptions, such as 2.420(c)(9)(A)(3)(i) "(i) prevent a serious and imminent threat to the fair, impartial, and orderly administration of justice"; (iii) " protect a compelling governmental interest"; or (vii) " comply with established public policy set forth in the Florida or United States Constitution or statutes or Florida rules or case law." These justify sealing cases.
Threat to orderly administration? Protect a compelling governmental interest? Comply with established public policy? These exceptions let the judges seal any civil case they like because Public Policy seems averse to the idea of giving the people real due process and justice in courts, and when the judges want to hide that abuse, they seal the case, WITHOUT NOTICE to anybody.
Hey, what happened to "Comply with the Constitution and its limits on the powers of judges?"
Want an example? The judge in the Florida 9th Circuit Court, in FORECLOSURE case 2008-CA1018-0, just sealed the case to keep the inquiring eyes of the public (including people like Roger Tanner, who brought this to my attention) OUT of the case because of the dirty tricks they would learn in it. The court ordered summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff without allowing the victim to do discovery or present evidence, and the clerk issued the execution order to the Sheriff to sell the property. Because of the due process violations, the judge sealed the case, so we would not find out about it and report him to the bar and the House Committee on the Judiciary, demanding his impeachment. This case smacks of racketeering between the judge, plaintiff, and plaintiff's attorney. At the very least, the judge has violated 18 USC 1346 in committing honest services fraud.
I have posted an article below about the ruling regarding Supersealing – an obvious effort of courts wrongly to hide the truth from the public.
If we shall enjoy "open government" we must demand that our legislators remove from our Constitution ALL possibility of ALL exemptions from disclosure of public records.
We must demand of our government the full and free disclosure of the entire contents of all court proceedings and public hearings, without exception.
Excerpt from Judicial Florida Administration Rule 2.420
(c) Exemptions. The following records of the judicial branch shall be confidential:
(9) Any court record determined to be confidential in case decision or court rule on the grounds that
(A) confidentiality is required to
(i) prevent a serious and imminent threat to the fair, impartial, and orderly administration of justice;
(ii) protect trade secrets;
(iii) protect a compelling governmental interest;
(iv) obtain evidence to determine legal issues in a case;
(v) avoid substantial injury to innocent third parties;
(vi) avoid substantial injury to a party by disclosure of matters protected by a common law or privacy right not generally inherent in the specific type of proceeding sought to be closed;
(vii) comply with established public policy set forth in the Florida or United States Constitution or statutes or Florida rules or case law;
(B) the degree, duration, and manner of confidentiality ordered by the court shall be no broader than necessary to protect the interests set forth in subdivision (A); and
(C) no less restrictive measures are available to protect the interests set forth in subdivision (A).
(d) Request to Make Circuit and County Court Records in Noncriminal Cases Confidential.
(1) A request to make circuit and county court records in noncriminal cases confidential under subdivision (c)(9) must be made in the form of a written motion captioned "Motion to Make Court Records Confidential." A motion made under this subdivision must:
(A) identify the particular court records the movant seeks to make confidential with as much specificity as possible without revealing the information to be made confidential; and
(B) specify the bases for making such court records confidential.
Any motion made under this subdivision must include a signed certification by the party making the request that the motion is being made in good faith and is supported by a sound factual and legal basis. The court records that are subject to a motion made under this subdivision must be treated as confidential by the clerk pending the court's ruling on the motion. Notwithstanding any of the foregoing, the court may not make confidential the case number, docket number, or other number used by the clerk's office to identify the case file.
(2) Except when a motion filed under subdivision (d)(1) represents that all parties agree to all of the relief requested, the court must, as soon as practicable but no later than 30 days after the filing of a motion under this subdivision, hold a hearing before ruling on the motion. Whether or not any motion filed under subdivision (d)(1) is agreed to by the parties, the court may in its discretion hold a hearing on such motion. Any hearing held under this subdivision must be an open proceeding, except that any party may request that the court conduct all or part of the hearing in camera to protect the interests set forth in subdivision (c)(9)(A). The moving party shall be responsible for ensuring that a complete record of any hearing held pursuant to this subdivision be created, either by use of a court reporter or by any recording device that is provided as a matter of right by the court. The court may in its discretion require prior public notice of the hearing on such a motion in accordance with the procedure for providing public notice of court orders set forth in subdivision (d)(4) or by providing such other public notice as the court deems appropriate.
(3) Any order granting in whole or in part a motion filed under subdivision (d)(1) must state the following with as much specificity as possible without revealing information made confidential:
(A) The type of case in which the order is being entered;
(B) The particular grounds under subdivision (c)(9)(A) for making the court records confidential;
(C) Whether any party's name is to be made confidential and, if so, the particular pseudonym or other term to be substituted for the party's name;
(D) Whether the progress docket or similar records generated to document activity in the case are to be made confidential;
(E) The particular court records that are to be made confidential;
(F) The names of those persons who are permitted to view the confidential court records;
(G) That the court finds that: (i) the degree, duration, and manner of confidentiality ordered by the court is no broader than necessary to protect the interests set forth in subdivision (c)(9)(A); and (ii) no less restrictive measures are available to protect the interests set forth in subdivision (c)(9)(A); and
(H) That the clerk of the court is directed to publish the order in accordance with subdivision (d)(4).
(4) Except as provided by law or court rule, notice must be given of any order granting a motion made under subdivision (d)(1) as follows. Within 10 days following the entry of the order, the clerk of court must post a copy of the order on the clerk's website and in a prominent, public location in the courthouse. The order must remain posted in both locations for no less than 30 days.
(5) If a nonparty requests that the court vacate all or part of an order issued under subdivision (d)(3), the request must be made in the form of a written motion that states with as much specificity as possible the bases for the request. The movant must serve all parties in the action with a copy of the motion. In the event that the subject order specifies that the names or addresses of one or more parties are to be made confidential, the movant must state prominently in the caption of the motion "Confidential Party — Court Service Requested." When a motion so designated is filed, the court shall be responsible for providing a copy of the motion to the parties in such a way as to not reveal the confidential information to the movant. Except when a motion filed under this subdivision represents that all parties agree to all of the relief requested, the court must hold a hearing before ruling on the motion. Whether or not any motion filed under this subdivision is agreed to by the parties, the court may in its discretion hold a hearing on such motion. Any hearing held under this subdivision must be an open proceeding, except that any party may request that the court conduct all or part of the hearing in camera to protect the interests set forth in subdivision (c)(9)(A). The movant shall be responsible for ensuring that a complete record of any hearing held under this subdivision be created, either by use of a court reporter or by any recording device that is provided as a matter of right by the court.
(6) If the court determines that a motion made under subdivision (d)(1) was not made in good faith and supported by a sound legal and factual basis, the court may impose sanctions upon the movant.
(7) Court records made confidential under this rule must be treated as confidential during any appellate proceedings. In any case where an order making court records confidential remains in effect as of the time of an appeal, the clerk's index must include a statement that an order making court records confidential has been entered in the matter and must identify such order by date or docket number.
(e) Judicial Review of Denial of Access Request.
Expedited review of denials of access to records of the judicial branch shall be provided through an action for mandamus, or other appropriate appellate remedy, in the following manner:
(1) Where a judge who has denied a request for access to records is the custodian, the action shall be filed in the court having appellate jurisdiction to review the decisions of the judge denying access. Upon order issued by the appellate court, the judge denying access to records shall file a sealed copy of the requested records with the appellate court.
(2) All other actions under this rule shall be filed in the circuit court of the circuit in which such denial of access occurs.
(f) Procedure. Requests and responses to requests for access to records under this rule shall be made in a reasonable manner.
(1) Requests for access to records shall be in writing and shall be directed to the custodian. The request shall provide sufficient specificity to enable the custodian to identify the requested records. The reason for the request is not required to be disclosed.
(2) The custodian shall be solely responsible for providing access to records of the custodian's entity. The custodian shall determine whether the requested record is subject to this rule and, if so, whether the record or portions of the record are exempt from disclosure. The custodian shall determine the form in which the record is provided. If the request is denied, the custodian shall state in writing the basis for the denial.
(3) Fees for copies of records in all entities in the judicial branch of government, except for copies of court records, shall be the same as those provided in section 119.07, Florida Statutes (2001)
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Florida Supreme Court enacts interim rules for sealing civil records
Saying the public's constitutional right of access to court records must remain inviolate, the Florida Supreme Court recently enacted emergency interim rules standardizing procedures for sealing court records in civil cases.
The rules include a prohibition on making case and docket numbers confidential and require clerks to post notices after a record is sealed. The rules, drafted by the Bar's Rules of Judicial Administration Committee, also set out procedures for challenging the sealing of records. For now, the rules only apply to civil cases and the court has directed the appropriate committees to continue to study rules for sealing criminal cases and to determine whether similar procedures are needed to address requests to seal appellate court records.
"This report addresses highly serious concerns first identified by Florida news media reports about hidden cases and secret dockets, sometimes called 'supersealing,'" the unanimous court said. "These reports identified practices that, however unintentional, were clearly offensive to the spirit of laws and rules that ultimately rest on Florida's well-established public policy of government in the sunshine."
The court said it is "fully committed to safeguarding this right."
Urgency to take action was ignited last summer by news reports in The Miami Herald of hiding files in secret dockets in Broward Circuit Court, as many as 400 civil cases, some about divorces and domestic violence involving judges, lawyers, police officers, politicians, and television personalities. Following that investigation, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported "all traces of 272 criminal cases dating back to 1988 vanished from citizens' view." Problems began cropping up in other circuits, too.
The court said the new rules identify a narrow category of court records where public access is automatically restricted by operation of state or federal law or court rule, such as in child dependency cases.
"Otherwise, our rules strongly disfavor court records that are hidden from public scrutiny," the court said. "The rules provide only a limited veil that is restricted to a second category of court records where a set of carefully defined interests are involved."
The court said the amendments to Rule 2.420 provide a procedural vehicle for making circuit and county court records in noncriminal cases confidential under Rule 2.420(c)(9) and for unsealing court records that have been made confidential under that rule.
"Most significant for our purposes here, by mandating that the case number, docket number, or other identifying number of a case cannot be made confidential, the removal from public view of all information acknowledging the existence of a case is expressly not allowed," the court said.
The following are among the other procedures adopted by the court:
• A request to make court records in noncriminal cases confidential must be made by written motion.
• A public hearing must be held on any contested sealing motion and may be held on certain uncontested sealing motions.
• A sealing order issued by a court must state with specificity the grounds for sealing and the findings of the court that justify sealing.
• All sealing orders must be published to the public.
• A nonparty may file a motion to vacate a sealing order.
• A public hearing must be held on any contested motion to vacate a sealing order and may be held on certain uncontested motions to vacate.
• A court may impose sanctions on any party who files a sealing motion without a good-faith basis and without a sound factual and legal basis.
"These procedures, which are intended for use in noncriminal cases, are adopted in the same spirit of openness and transparency that has informed the court's case law and rules of procedure throughout its modern history," the court said. "Their adoption reaffirms our courts' commitment to ensuring that the public has proper access to court records and case information, and this will prevent a recurrence of the practices that gave rise to the present concerns."
The court, however, said the new procedures are not its final statement in this area.
"Given the importance of this issue, the court will continue to work with the appropriate committees to achieve uniform statewide procedures to address all aspects of this issue," the court said. "Specifically, as for criminal case records, we refer the matter back to the appropriate committees for additional study. We also refer to the appropriate rules committees the issue of whether procedures similar to those adopted here are needed to address requests to seal appellate court records."
The court noted that the procedures are only as good as the manner in which they are applied and enforced.
"In this respect, Florida's trial courts and court clerks are the first line of action," the court said. "We are confident that trial judges and clerks of court will remain ever vigilant of the courts' longstanding presumption in favor of open records."
— Courtesy The Florida Bar Journal