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.
30th Annual Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award
From Left: Award-winning Miami Herald reporter Carol Marbin Miller & Executive Associate Dean Spiro Kiousis of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications
The Brechner Center is proud to present The Miami Herald as the winner of the 30th Annual Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award for its groundbreaking investigative series, “Innocents Lost."
The two award-winning Herald reporters, Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch, investigated Florida’s child welfare system by following the lives – and deaths – of children within the system. As part of the three-year-long investigation, the reporters pored over thousands of documents, uncovering a system that was clearly broken, leaving children unprotected and at risk. The Miami Herald was forced to file three public records lawsuits demanding access to many of the documents about the treatment of the children and their caregivers. They found Florida agencies consistently failed to provide adequate treatment for drug-addicted parents, neglected to implement adequate safety plans to protect children from abusive or neglectful caregivers, and hid in the shadows of Florida’s open records law. The entire "Innocents Lost" series can be viewed online at The Miami Herald's website.
The Brechner Center presented the 2015 Brechner Award on April 11, 2016 at the Florida Free Speech Forum luncheon to Carol Marbin Miller on behalf of The Miami Herald and, fellow reporter and partner on the project, Audra D.S. Burch who was unable to attend the ceremony.
The Miami Herald was selected as the 30th Annual Joseph L. Brechner Award winner from amoung dozens of entries received in 2015. The 31st Annual Joseph L. Brechner Award winner will be selected from the entries received during 2016 and the winner will be announced at the 31st Annual Joseph L. Brechner Award ceremony in April of 2017. Please email Sarah Silberman at email@example.com with any questions concerning the Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award.
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.
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
The deadline to submit entries for the 31st Annual Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award is approaching! Please make sure entries are received by March 15, 2016. For more information please see entry requirements and rules.
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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.