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City Of Tallahassee & Media Groups Urge Florida Supreme Court To Hear 'Marsy’s Law' Case

High contrast image of crime scene tape in front of a police cruiser with lights blaring.
(c) Fer Gregory/fergregory
Marsy’s Law protects the privacy of crime victims, and two Tallahassee police officers argue they were victims in use-of-force incidents because they were threatened.

The City of Tallahassee and news media organizations filed briefs Monday. These briefs argue that the Florida Supreme Court should take up a legal battle about whether a 2018 constitutional amendment, known as “Marsy’s Law”, can shield the identities of police officers.

The briefs came in April after the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with two Tallahassee police officers who invoked Marsy’s Law to prevent their identities from being released after use-of-force shooting incidents in which they were threatened.

Marsy’s Law is designed to bolster crime victims’ rights, and the officers argued they were victims in the incidents. The City of Tallahassee wants the Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court ruling. In a brief Monday the potentially far-reaching implications of the case were explored.

“Since the enactment of Marsy’s Law, interpretive questions about its application to law enforcement have divided Florida agencies and municipalities,” lawyers for the city wrote. “These interpretive questions turn on the language, meaning, and significance of the Florida Constitution --- a subject over which this (Supreme) Court is the final arbiter.”

Similarly, lawyers for a coalition of news media and First Amendment organizations urged the Supreme Court to hear the case.

“This petition for review reaches this (Supreme) Court at an apt moment --- ongoing societal debate on the proper role of community policing and public accountability for law enforcement,” the coalition’s brief said. “The ruling below (in the appeals court) impacted that larger debate when it held that police officers who employ deadly force in the course of their official duties can cloak their names --- within the public records where this information resides --- with complete anonymity under Florida’s version of Marsy’s Law.”

Attorneys for the officers have not yet filed briefs. It is unclear when the Supreme Court will decide whether to take up the case.

(Disclosure: The News Service of Florida is a member of the First Amendment Foundation and the Florida Press Association, which are in the coalition.)