his own hearing in order to help prepare his case was denied access and was told the hearingswere private and in the judge’s chambers.
reporter accompanied a legal aid attorney to a foreclosure hearing inJacksonville, and, at one point left the hearing to interview a pro se litigant. The judge laterthat day sent an e-mail to the attorney criticizing her for bringing the reporter to the hearings,saying that members of the media were permitted only upon “proper request of the securityofficer.” The judge also said the attorney apparently authorized the reporter to “pursue” thepro se litigant which could lead to contempt charges.
“Systematically excluding members of the press and public from judicial foreclosureproceedings violates the robust guarantee of open access to courts provided by Florida law,” the letter said.
“This court has held that ‘both civil and criminal court proceedings in Florida are public eventsand adhere to the well established common law right of access to court proceedings andrecords.’
Barron v. Fla. Freedom Newspapers, Inc.
, 531 So. 2d 113, 116 (Fla. 1988).”
The letter said it is the burden of the courts to show that hearings must be closed, not on thepublic to show why they must have access, and that courts have not established any need toclose foreclosure hearings.
“We recognize that the heavy volume of foreclosure cases has led to difficulties finding judgesand courtrooms to hear the cases,” the letter said. “As a result, some cases are being held inchambers for lack of an available traditional courtroom. Nevertheless, the proceedings must beopen, even if they are held temporarily in a smaller and less formal physical setting than usual.While we understand the necessity for ordinary and uniform security screening procedures, theunavailability of a traditional courtroom cannot justify a deprivation of the rights establishedunder Florida law and the U.S. Constitution.”
The groups’ letter to Moran focused on the Duval County incident, which it said occurredOctober 26, and made the same access arguments as the letter to Chief Justice Canady.
In his letter to the chief judges, Chief Justice Canady also clarified the Supreme Court’sunderstanding of the goals of the Foreclosure and Economic Recovery Funding Initiative, whichwas partially funded by the Legislature during the 2010 session. Canady said the goal of usingthe $6 million appropriated by the Legislature to the trial courts try to reduce the state’sstaggering backlog of foreclosure filings by 62 percent is a goal, not a quota.
“There is no reason why the 62 percent goal should interfere with a judge’s ability toadjudicate each case fairly on its merits,” Canady said. “Each case must be adjudicated inaccordance with the law.” Canady also told the chief judges he recognizes the challenges they face in assuring that the “avalanche” of foreclosure cases are resolved properly.
“I am confident that with the cooperation of all judges and court staff, along with the tools of the revised rules of court procedure, implementation of the managed mediation program, andthe influx of court resources through the Foreclosure and Economic Recovery Funding
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