Secret Taping in Florida 10th Judicial Circuit Courts

This very confusing article entitled More questions about court recordings indeed raises more questions than it answers. Piecing together the story between the official obfuscation and the uneven writing, what seems to have been going on is…

  • Someone — we don't know who — in the state court system in the 10th Judicial Circuit installed an official backup taping system in the Florida state courts. At present no one is willing to take the credit for this innovation.
  • Signs were posted warning the public that taping was going on, but it is unclear if the signs referred to the primary system — which has “a blue indicator light [that] is apparent at the front of each courtroom” when it is on. More to the point, that appears to be what the public thought it meant.
  • The court staff indicates judges were aware of the system and could ask for it to be turned off; they also are now suggesting that it was used more in criminal than civil cases. But if there were court orders regarding when taping should be on or off, they have yet to be produced; it's likely that litigants were not informed one way or the other.
  • The tapes are public records covered by Florida's aggressive Sunshine Law — but the court staff are not responding very enthusiastically to record requests. They say they have to redact them first (I'm unclear as to how much redaction they are entitled to do).
  • Although this is particularly unclear from the article , there is some implication that the tapes might have able to capture sounds over the whole courtroom, not just the front.
  • Parties are concerned that private conversations with their lawyers may have been recorded.

Lots here that remains very murky. Florida is a two-party consent state for sound recording. Does putting up a sign in a court room suffice to get consent?

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One Response to Secret Taping in Florida 10th Judicial Circuit Courts

  1. Todd Starkey says:

    More on this will come out in the NewSun, ( tomorrow, Sunday, March 15, 2009. Apparently, the Chief Judge of the 10th Judicial Circuit has issued an Administrative Order addressing the past unwritten practice of secretly recording courtroom conversations during recesses.

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