Government in the Sunshine:
A Citizen's Guide
The booklet covers both state and national laws that give the public access to government information and meetings. It contains a list of recourses for citizens seeking information and a sample letter to request public records.
The Brechner Report
The Brechner Report is the Center's monthly newsletter, summarizing recent developments in Florida's open government laws. "The Back Page" of The Brechner Report features commentary by prominent journalists, attorneys and scholars on contemporary media law issues.
The Brechner Award
The Brechner Center sponsors an annual $3,000 cash award recognizing excellence in reporting about freedom of information, access to government-held information, or the First Amendment.
2015 Legislative Update:
Exemptions to the Public Records and Sunshine Laws
By Emma Morehart
During the 2015 term, the Florida Legislature passed 12 bills that create new exemptions to the state Public Records Law. It also re-enacted six exemptions to the Public Records Law and one exemption to the Sunshine Law. Generally, these exemptions relate to investigations and court records; identifying personal information, including emails; information that implicates safety concerns; or business secrets.
To read more about these exemptions please see the entire update here.
Breaking Down the Walls: The Fight for Open Government Conference
Sharyl Attkisson addresses conference attendees on March 26, 2015
The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications and the Joseph L. Brechner Center for Freedom of Information hosted the “Breaking Down the Walls: The Fight for Open Government” Conference on March 26th and 27th. The freedom of information conference was made possible by a gift from Sharyl Attkisson and was co-sponsored by the law firms of Thomas & LoCicero and Holland & Knight.
Sharyl Attkisson, an Emmy award-winning investigative reporter and best-selling author, kicked off the conference on March 26, 2015 with her keynote speech “The Rightful Owners of Public Information.” The conference included a wide variety of speakers from across the nation and focused on freedom of information issues. On March 27, 2015 conference attendees discussed possible solutions for improving laws and compliance with government officials.
Brechner Center Presents 29th Annual Brechner Award
From left: Sandra F. Chance, Paul Pringle, Rong-Gong Lin II & Diane McFarlin
Reporters Paul Pringle and Rong-Gong Lin II of the Los Angeles Times have been named the winners of the 29th Annual Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award. Their award-winning investigative series “Lifting a Cloak of Secrecy” exposed the closed-door deliberations between the taxpayer-owned Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the private University of Southern California.
“The reporters used public records to reveal how Los Angeles city officials were making secret deals to turn ownership of the Coliseum over to the University of Southern California, a private institution,” said Sandra Chance, executive director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information. “Their reporting led to indictments, hard-fought court battles and a ‘blistering rebuke’ of the government and its tactics by the judge who found multiple violations of the law and ordered $415,000 to cover legal expenses.”
Paul Pringle and Rong-Gong Lin II were presented with the 2014 Brechner Award at the Florida Free Speech Forum's Buddy Davis luncheon on April 13, 2015 and received the annual $3000 cash award.
The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida exists to advance understanding, appreciation and support for freedom of information in the state of Florida, the nation and the world.
Through education and promotion of freedom of information laws and policies, the Center seeks to foster open government and a participatory democracy.
In addition, The Brechner Center serves the public with information about the First Amendment, freedom of information, and access to government information issues.
Since 1977, The Brechner Center has been a freedom of information resource in Florida and beyond.
What We Do
- Educate the public, press and government officials about the value of open government and the important role that freedom of information plays in a democracy.
- Monitor developments in the area of freedom of information at all levels of government.
- Provide clear, current and useful information in response to queries about First Amendment and access issues.
- Conduct and publish scholarly research that underscores the importance of freedom of information to society.
- Foster the work of graduate students in the areas of media law and policy.
Current Projects & Resources
- The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information conducted a Social Media and Smartphone Policy Audit in 2011-2012, funded by a grant from the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC). The purpose of the audit was to see how Florida's counties are handling the requirements of the public records and open meetings laws in relation to social media and smartphones. Executive Summary.
- Florida Attorney General McCollum has launched the Government Accountability Project (GAP), in partnership with The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information with the objective of encouraging state and local government entities to be proactive in providing Florida’s citizens the information and records they need to hold government accountable. Read the GAP Phase 1 Report.
- Prof. Sandra Chance is serving as the chair of the national Liberty Tree Campus Initiative. The Liberty Tree Campus Initiative, through a grant from the McCormick Foundation, will provide $5,000 to colleges and universities to host a Liberty Tree Initiative program, tapping the talents of local and national experts and educators to illuminate pivotal First Amendment issues.
- Prosecution Database- Chronology listing known cases in which public officials either pleaded no contest or guilty to or were convicted of criminal or civil charges under the Open Records or Open Meetings Law.
- Attorney's Fees Database- A chronology of cases in which plaintiffs obtained litigation expenses in legal actions filed under Florida’s Open Meetings or Open Records laws..
- 2011 Legislative Update:-During the 2011 session, Florida lawmakers passed 9 new exemptions to the state's open government laws.
- 2012 Legislative Update:-During the 2012 session, Florida lawmakers passed 8 new exemptions to the state's open government laws.
- House- Learn how your state representatives voted on each bill.
- Senate- Learn how your senators voted on each bill
Congratulations to Rong-Gong Lin II and Paul Pringle from the Los Angeles Times for winning the 29th Annual Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award!
Click here to view the official press release.
The Brechner Center is on Facebook
Click here to become a fan and keep up to date on the latest news on Florida open government issues.
Open Government Pledge
The Brechner Center encourages candidates to express their commitment to open government. Click here for the pledge and instructions on submitting your signed pledge to us.
Interested in who has already signed the pledge? Click here to see a list of public officials who have made a public commitment to government transparency.
This project recognizes more than 60 journalists and 11 Florida newspapers for their use of freedom of information laws in hard-hitting investigative journalism. The articles illustrate the importance of open government laws and reflect how these stories benefitted the public. Learn more about the investigative work of Florida's finest journalists.