Herald: Gov. DeSantis lawyer pressured law firm not to file suit

The Herald wants to know what facilities are affected, but the DeSantis admin is pushing back.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ legal team sought to block a request from the Miami Herald  seeking the names of all elder-care facilities that have had a resident or worker who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The Governor’s office has so far refused to divulge the names of impacted facilities, much to the annoyance of families with elderly parents or grandparents at facilities where they may or may not be at risk.

The Herald filed a low suit to compel the state to divulge those records, but DeSantis’ general counsel pressured Herald attorney Sanford Bohrer to abandon the suit through his law firm, Holland & Knight.

According to the Herald, the pressure paid off.

However, the Herald still plans to move forward with its lawsuit through another law firm.

“We are disappointed that the governor’s office would go so far as to apply pressure on our legal counsel to prevent the release of public records that are critical to the health and safety of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Herald Publisher Aminda Marqués González, according to a Herald report documenting the issue.

“We shouldn’t have had to resort to legal action in the first place. Anyone with a relative in an elder care facility has a right to know if their loved ones are at risk so they can make an informed decision about their care.”

The Governor’s office has not provided legal justification for withholding facility names, however the Herald lawsuit did not seek the names of residents or staff, which would dispel any arguments concerning privacy issues.

Pressed by the Miami Herald, DeSantis spokeswoman Helen Ferré, denied the administration had any role in using lawyers to block a public records suit.

DeSantis’ General Counsel, Joe Jacquot, contacted an attorney at Holland & Knight who had no affiliation with the suit other than his firm’s letterhead, an attorney who has represented the state before, including on the state’s most recent effort to protect Amendment 4 implementing legislation requiring former felons to pay all fines and fees before having their voting rights restored.

Sometime after Jacquot’s conversation with Holland & Knight attorney George Meros, the Herald said the attorney who was working on the suit, Bohrer, received a call instructing him to abandon the suit.

“They asked us not to file this lawsuit on behalf of the Herald,” Bohrer told the Herald. “They did not want Holland & Knight to represent the Herald.”

Ferré defended the call as “normal practice” in which attorneys often discuss a suit before it is formally filed in hopes of avoiding litigation, according to the Herald.

The Herald’s legal team drafted the lawsuit, but had not filed it, waiting for a five-day period after notifying the Governor’s office of its intent.

Jacquot told the Herald he called Meros, rather than Bohrer, because “he’s the Holland & Knight attorney that we work with all the time.”

He claims the conversation was brief and was merely a request to discuss the suit.

The Herald planned to file the suit after a March 23 public records request for facility names went unfulfilled.

Some facilities have been named through other channels including Atria Willow Wood in Fort Lauderdale and the Jackson Memorial Long-Term Care Center in Miami.

But that is only a small snapshot of a broader problem. As of Sunday morning, the Florida Department of Health reported 837 cases of COVID-19 among staff or residents in long-term care facilities in 51 counties. There are 691 facilities throughout the state.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


  • Ward Posey

    April 12, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    I originally thought based on the fact that he was a veteran, and had no personal scandals associated with him, that DeSantis would be a decent leader and Governor for Florida, even though he was a Republican. Boy, was I wrong. This guy has been sleazier than Jeb Bush, and is trying to be a bigger sewer rat than Ricky “Corrupt” Scott. He has intentionally downplayed COVID-19 and its effects on the citizens of Florida and has actively covered up his mismanagement and the unpreparedness of his inept administration in dealing with the virus. He should in fact be charged with negligent homicide for his actions and inactions in dealing with this crises. This man is pure slime from head to toe. He should be removed and sent to prison for his crimes against the State and its citizens.

    • Freedom of the Press

      April 12, 2020 at 2:44 pm

      Ward, don’t pretend to be a DeSantis supporter who has turned sour on him, since it is clear that you have never been a fan of his, and your remarks about Rick Scott, are shameless.

      This article about the Miami Herald, tries to make Gov. DeSantis look sleezy and corrupt. His legal people did what any client would do when their own attorney is now representing a suit against them.

      This is called “conflict of interest.” Every lawyer must think twice about doing what Holland and Knight were going to do. In fact, I’m surprised that Holland and Knight did not recuse themselves from representing the newspaper on this issue. And, if the truth were told, that is most likely what occurred.

      But, in these days of political hostility and hatred by the media and the left, of those who won election, against the wishes of the media, this is not surprising.

      Too many times have we seen disinformation being posed as factual news, and this is why so many people do not trust the media any longer.

  • Randall Townsend

    April 12, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    Desantis knows that the Holland $ Knight law firm are the Ann Holland Scott and Rick Scott and Jeb Bush and Gov Martinez and Charles Canady Jr and Ashley Moody Et al puppets for their Comm Core and Obama Care through The Rick Scott health care Frauds and this lawsuit would release the connecting documents!

  • Ocean Joe

    April 12, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    If Holland & Knight represents the state, and Holland & Knight represents the Miami Herald, and the Herald wants to sue the state to compel disclosures, doesn’t Holland & Knight have a conflict of interest representing both even when it attempts to discourage litigation between two of its’ own clients?

  • Sonja Fitch

    April 12, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Desantis is hiding some damn disgusting numbers from us about the old and sick. Desantis is suppressing numbers from the prisons. Desantis is just another nazi goptrump cult puppet. The blood on these souls is in you now Desantis!!!!

  • Lisa Martell

    April 12, 2020 at 11:41 pm

    It doesn’t take more than a reasonable level of intelligence to see DeSantis for what he really is. Ill-equipped, in way over his head, deer in the headlights. Sounds like he did get the memo from his mentor.
    From day one, I have been less than comforted by his inability to be the Crisis Mgr this state so desperately needs during this crisis. I am not comforted by inaccurate, or unknown information. I’m not at all comforted by some of the actions he has taken. I’m not comforted by the things I believe he should be doing but is not. I’m not comforted by his treatment of the press. I am not comforted that I sometimes have to learn key information on national news. I am not comforted by his petulant, exasperated, inaccurate, blame game and snarky responses. All of which can be seen on any day but not necessarily in equal measure.
    His behavior seems as if this is all terribly inconvenient and not what he signed up for.

    Florida is well known for the horrific way we treat our elders (or anyone) who are in long term care facilities. The industry lobbies and gets whatever they want. Even if it is at the peril of the residents.
    If my information is correct, it is not mandatory for all states to provide full disclosure. Perhaps this is legislation at the State level. We do know that the Federal Gov’t does not keep track of such things. Wherever this total lack of transparency is coming from, it needs to stop.
    As a citizen of Florida and also a human being, it is deeply disturbing that the entirety of this situation never improves in favor of the residents at these facilities.
    As a daughter who now has an elderly parent in a care facility, I am terrified. I deserve to know whether something is going on in her “forever home”. What I’ve been doing these days is calling her at least twice everyday and making a visit to her window multiple times per week. It is too much for someone with dementia and causes more work for the staff. But it is the only way I can confirm with certainty that she is ok.
    We aren’t looking to violate HIPPAA privacy. The name of the facility and the #’s of those tested positive and those who are ill or are deceased. Should be Public information.
    I’m rooting for the Herald to prevail in this matter. There are many other attorneys more than up to this task. Once disclosure does happen, look towards Tally to see the mushroom cloud hovering above.
    He owns this crisis here in our state. His meh-response to it will loom large over him forever.

Comments are closed.


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