SEPTEMBER 16, 2020 
In this issue:
  • LISTEN to Episode Four of FAF Podcast "Open Government in Florida" featuring Trimmel Gomes on Conspiracy Theories, QAnon in Florida Politics and Trustworthy Journalism
  • SAVE THE DATE: DERISION 2020 with Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen on OCTOBER 21 at 7:30 p.m.
  • MEET our new Staff Counsel: VIRGINIA HAMRICK
  • READ why FAF will oppose legislation to make Guardian information confidential
  • FAF is seeking applicants for the 2021 Ken Weiss Open Government Legal Fellowship
"Open Government in Florida" Talks with
Trimmel Gomes, Host of The Rotunda Podcast
In our fourth episode of “Open Government in Florida,” FAF President Pamela Marsh talks with Trimmel Gomes, an award-winning journalist and president of Gomes Media Strategies, LLC, a media relations firm. Trimmel is also the host of The Rotunda: a weekly public affairs podcast about the people and issues shaping Florida politics. Pamela talks with Trimmel about how and why he was inspired to start his Rotunda Podcast, as well as current conspiracy theories, QAnonymous candidates, and algorithmic news drivers. Finally, we wrap it up by talking about how to bring people together with facts, understanding and transparency.

All episodes of "Open Government in Florida" can be found on:

And of course, you can find all prior episodes at the Podcast Tab on the FAF website:
We welcome your ideas regarding future guests and topics at
Join columnists Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen for an evening of humor and insight into today’s politics, following on the heels of the Miami presidential debate. Ticket information coming soon. All proceeds will support the important work of the First Amendment Foundation.

The First Amendment Foundation is excited to introduce the newest and third member of its small and hard-working staff, Virginia Hamrick. Virginia received her law degree from the University of Florida's Levin College of Law. In 2019, she was awarded the Weiss Open Government Fellowship at the First Amendment Foundation. We loved her work and her presence in our office, so we asked her to join us and are thrilled that she said "yes"! During law school, Virginia was a research assistant at the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information where she used public information laws to obtain records from college athletic departments and analyzed speech rights of student-athletes. In addition, she interned for the Honorable Gary R. Jones in the Northern District of Florida and clerked for Ausley McMullen in Tallahassee. Previously, Virginia worked as a television news producer. She graduated summa cum laude from UF’s College of Journalism and Communications.
Florida Lawyers Seek to Make Guardianship Records Confidential
by: Virginia Hamrick, FAF Staff Counsel

A group of lawyers is pushing legislation that would make guardianship records confidential. FAF believes this is bad public policy. Journalists have used guardianship court records to uncover fraud by guardians and conflicts of interest within Florida’s guardianship system. Investigative reporting led to local and statewide guardianship reforms. 

But now the Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar is advocating for increased secrecy and decreased transparency of the guardianship records. The section recently approved and adopted the Ad Hoc Guardianship Law Revision Committee’s proposal for amending the guardianship statute. The proposed bill would make all records relating to incapacity and guardianship confidential. 

The bill would allow certain parties to access the files: the court, the clerk, the guardian, the guardian’s attorney, the ward’s attorney, a guardian ad litem appointed on behalf of the ward, the Office of Public and Professional Guardians, and an adult ward who has not been adjudicated totally incapacitated. Meanwhile, family members, the public, and wards deemed totally incapacitated would need to show good cause to review the records. As noted in the Orlando Sentinel, there is no exception for cases in which release of court records would serve the public interest. 

Supporters of confidentiality have argued that wards have fewer privacy rights than others. Proponents have noted that, in a guardianship, contract details to buy or sell land must be submitted to a court; however, when a person with full capacity makes a similar purchase, details of the contract are confidential. An attorney on the committee told the Sentinel that this proposal would prevent a ward’s private information from the “reach of predators, gadflies or other self-servers.” 

Yet, protections for a ward’s private information already exist. A vulnerable adult’s medical, financial, and mental health records are confidential and exempt from public records. Unless authorized by law, a ward’s personal and medical records are already protected from disclosure. 

The proposal makes it more difficult for family members and the public to know when guardians sold their wards’ home or purchased property on their wards’ behalf, and the details of such an agreement. Confidentiality makes it harder to oversee when guardians bill fees from a ward’s estate and pay those fees to themselves. The bill is intended to protect wards; instead, the proposed confidentiality provision actually insulates guardians and their conduct from public scrutiny. 

Guardianship is an area already rife with fraud, and a law that provides a cover-up for bad actors is bad public policy. This legislation will only result in less accountability in care-giving. We need more transparency here, not less. FAF intends to oppose this legislation.

  • From the Sun Sentinel: Stop the secrecy on COVID-19 discussions, mayors tell Broward County.
  • From PoliticoFlorida: Florida schools defy DeSantis order to keep virus stats under wraps 
  • From WFSU: First Amendment Foundation President Talks TPD Body Cam Footage.

FAF is seeking applicants for the 2021 Ken Weiss Open Government Legal Fellowship. Please invite any second-year or third-year law students to apply. Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, Sept. 30. 

For more information please click here.