Court sides with state attorney in records dispute


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An appeals court this week overturned a ruling that a North Florida state attorney violated the state’s public-records law by requiring a lawyer to travel 25 miles to have access to requested records.

The case stemmed from a public-records request filed by Lake City lawyer Kevin Carson after charges were dropped in 2011 against a client, L.J. Johnson, in an incident about a firearm discharging at a store, according to Tuesday’s decision by a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Robert “Skip’ Jarvis, who was then the state attorney in the 3rd Judicial Circuit, reviewed the request and said Carson could have access to the records in Jarvis’ Live Oak office, 25 miles away from Lake City.

That led to a lawsuit, and a circuit judge ruled that requiring Carson to travel to Live Oak “amounted to an unjustified delay in violation of the public records law,” Tuesday’s decision said.

But the appeals court disagreed and overturned the ruling.

“By making the records available at his main office in Live Oak, where they had been reviewed for exemptions pending Mr. Carson’s inspection, State Attorney Jarvis satisfied his legal obligation,” said the decision, written by appeals-court Judge Scott Osterhaus and joined by judges James Wolf and Susan Kelsey. “His office was a reasonable place to make the state attorney’s records available in the Third Circuit, even if Mr. Carson had to drive some 25 miles to view them.”