Florida judge blocks subpoenas in migrant records fight

TALLAHASSEE – A Leon County circuit judge has rejected subpoenas that sought to power two prime aides to Gov. Ron DeSantis to testify in a public-records lawsuit stemming from controversial flights of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Judge J. Lee Marsh issued a two-page choice Sunday that quashed subpoenas the Florida Center for Government Accountability had issued to DeSantis Chief of Staff James Uthmeier and Larry Keefe, a public-safety adviser to the governor. Marsh additionally shielded Chris DeLorenz, a records custodian in the governor’s office, from testifying.

Marsh dominated after the DeSantis administration filed a movement late Thursday searching for to dam the subpoenas, which had been issued by the Florida Center for Government Accountability. The subpoenas sought to power testimony in a listening to Tuesday in the public-records lawsuit filed in opposition to the administration by the middle, an open-government group.

The ruling agreed with DeSantis administration arguments that Uthmeier and Keefe shouldn’t be required to testify due to what is called the “apex doctrine,” a authorized idea that typically shields high-ranking officers from testifying if data will be obtained in different methods. Marsh wrote that the administration offered “declarations explaining that Mr. Uthmeier and Mr. Keefe lack unique, personal knowledge of the issues being litigated.”

“In addition, the court finds that plaintiff has not met its burden because taking the testimony of Mr. Keefe and Mr. Uthmeier is not necessary for this public records lawsuit,” Marsh wrote.

Also, Marsh wrote that the subpoena for DeLorenz was “an annoyance, oppressive and an undue burden” below a authorized rule.

“The court will not set the precedent that EOG’s (the Executive Office of the Governor’s) records custodian may be haled into court without a good faith basis to contest his declaration,” wrote Marsh, who held an emergency listening to Friday on the movement to quash the subpoenas.

The Florida Center for Government Accountability filed the lawsuit Oct. 10 and alleged that the governor’s office didn’t adjust to requests to launch a collection of records in regards to the flights, which carried about 50 migrants from Texas to Massachusetts and drew nationwide consideration. The heart issued subpoenas final week.

The lawsuit, in half, sought records, cellphone logs or textual content logs that would present communications by Uthmeier in regards to the flights. Also, it sought any records that may present communications with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office about relocating migrants.

The DeSantis administration launched some records, however the heart stated in the lawsuit that the discharge was not “responsive” to requests made Sept. 20 and Sept. 21 below Florida’s public-records legislation. Also, Andrea Flynn Mogensen, an lawyer for the middle, despatched an electronic mail to DeLorenz on Oct. 17 that stated the administration had not offered things like a textual content log and a cellphone log for Uthmeier, in response to a doc filed Friday in the case.

“We reviewed the (records) production and did not see any log of text messages sent or received by Mr. Uthmeier,” Mogensen wrote in the Oct. 17 electronic mail. “If we have overlooked anything please let us know.”

The heart additionally has filed a separate public-records lawsuit in opposition to the Florida Department of Transportation and Vertol Systems Company, Inc., which acquired a state contract to move migrants. That lawsuit stays pending.

The two flights on Sept. 14 carried migrants from Texas to Massachusetts, with a cease at an airport in the Northwest Florida group of Crestview. The DeSantis administration tapped into $12 million that the Legislature offered to move undocumented immigrants. Part of the controversy facilities on Florida flying migrants from Texas.

Numerous media studies have stated Keefe, a former United States lawyer in North Florida, performed a behind-the-scenes position in the flights. DeSantis, broadly talked about as a possible 2024 Republican presidential candidate, steadily blasts the Biden administration’s immigration insurance policies. He additionally has criticized “sanctuary” communities, resembling Martha’s Vineyard.

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