In a move towards strict liability, a recent Florida Supreme Court holding allows no room for public agency error under Florida’s Public Records Act (“Act”). On April 14, 2016, the Supreme Court of Florida issued on opinion in Board of Trustees, Jacksonville Police & Fire Pension Fund v. Lee, and held that a party is entitled to attorney’s fees under the Act when a public agency unlawfully refuses access to public records, regardless of a public agency’s reasonable or good faith mistake in refusing to produce the requested records.
The Florida Constitution provides individuals with the “right to inspect or copy any public record . . .” The Act codifies this constitutional mandate and incentivizes compliance by allowing for a prevailing party in a civil action to recover attorney’s fees when an “agency unlawfully refuse[s] to permit a public record to be inspected or copied.”