Media companies want access to redistricting documents - South Lake Press: News

Media companies want access to redistricting documents

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Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 1:00 pm

A group of media companies, including the parent company of The Daily Commercia l, is asking the Florida Supreme Court for permission to file a “friend of the court” brief in a lawsuit over documents related to a congressional redistricting case.

Eight news companies, the Associated Press and a handful of industry groups filed the motion late Monday. This included the Halifax Media Group, which owns The Daily Commercial , Ocala Star-Banner , Daytona Beach News-Journal , Lakeland Ledger and about a dozen more newspapers in Florida.

Justices are considering whether the records produced by Republican consultant Pat Bainter, his employees and his Gainesville-based firm, Data Targeting, Inc., should have been introduced in a lawsuit challenging congressional districts drawn by the Legislature in 2012.

The records were used in the case — in which Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis struck down the maps — but remain shielded from public view. The media companies are particularly concerned about a request from Bainter and his allies that the records be permanently sealed.

“The state and federal constitutional rights of access to public records are secured for all citizens,” lawyers for the companies said in the filing. “Appellants’ request raises important questions about the right of access to public records in Florida; whether documents introduced into evidence and relied upon by the trial court in a proceeding attacking as unconstitutional secrecy in the redistricting process can be kept, well, secret.”

Lewis’ ruling targeted districts represented by Congresswoman Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, and Congressman Dan Webster, a Winter Garden Republican. Brown’s District 5, which winds its way from Jacksonville to Orlando, has been criticized for years as one of the worst examples of gerrymandering in the nation.

Webster’s District 10 stretches from Lakeland to Eustis.

Redrawing the two districts targeted in Lewis’s ruling could affect some neighboring seats, especially those surrounding Webster’s seat.

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