Alex Constantine - November 7, 2007
" ... Guetzloe had kept the documents in a self-storage unit and when he failed to pay his rent, the owner auctioned the papers off for $10. ... "
Court lifts restraint on airing of consultant's documents
www.rcfp.org/Oct. 12, 2007
An appeals court overturned a judge's prior restraint on coverage of papers purchased in an auction of a political consultant's property.
Oct. 12, 2007 • An Orlando television station cannot be restricted from airing a broadcast discussing documents belonging to a political consultant, a Florida appeals court ruled Oct. 4
Previously plagued by an election-law scandal, Orlando-based political consultant Douglas Guetzloe got a Florida court to bar Orlando TV station WKMG from airing any broadcasts covering 80 boxes of documents of which he had recently lost possession. The restraint was later modified to prohibit only reports regarding Guetzloe's medical documents and communications with attorneys that may have been in the boxes.
Guetzloe had kept the documents in a self-storage unit and when he failed to pay his rent, the owner auctioned the papers off for $10. The purchaser's identity is unknown, according to court records, but the television station acquired the documents from that third party. Guetzloe said the boxes contain medical documents as well as communications with his attorney and were auctioned off in error.
Guetzloe is a "significant player in Orlando and Central Florida politics," who was found guilty of one election-related violation and is under investigation for others, said WKMG attorney Jack Kirschenbaum.
WKMG appealed the trial court's prior restraint and the Florida District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach overruled the judge's order.
"At the time the order was entered, we were not sure what was in all the boxes -- we still aren't," Kirschenbaum said. "There were two categories of records we were prohibited from broadcasting the contents of; one was medical records, which we had no intent to broadcast, and the other was attorney-client records. We are not certain we even have either of those two."
The court noted that a prior restraint is presumed unconstitutional and rejected Guetzloe's arguments that his privacy interest in his personal papers met the "heavy burden" in allowing the censorship. Guetzloe had argued that he would have an actionable invasion of privacy claim because of the nature of the medical and attorney-client records.
"Although we can certainly conceive of hypothetical situations when publication of sensitive medical records or attorney-client communications might meet this element, we cannot conclude that the publication of any such records will necessarily meet this threshold merely because of their nature," Judge Vincent G. Torpy, Jr. wrote for the unanimous three-judge appeals panel.
(Post-Newsweek v. Guetzloe, Media Counsel: Jack Kirschenbaum, GrayRobinson, Orlando, Fla.) -- Corinna Zarek