Lobby up: Joe Abruzzo enlists Ballard Partners to help get Epstein records released
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Confidential files and documents in binder locked. Privacy and s
Abruzzo's call comes shortly after a circuit court judge denied a request to release the grand jury records.

Palm Beach County Court Clerk Joe Abruzzo believes the public should be able to see the grand jury records relating to the Jeffrey Epstein case, but Florida law won’t allow it.

The records date back 15 years, when prosecutors and Epstein struck a deal allowing him to avoid federal charges and plead guilty to one count of soliciting prostitution at the state level. The deal was granted despite several girls telling prosecutors that they had felt forced into sexual relationships with Epstein.

Abruzzo’s call for the change comes shortly after a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge denied The Palm Beach Post’s request for the records, citing the inflexibility of the statute (905.27) shielding grand jury records from the public.

State law does allow grand jury testimony to be released under certain circumstances, including “furthering justice,” which was the basis of The Palm Beach Post’s request.

In his ruling, Circuit Judge Donald Hafele said the paper presented “strong arguments” but that the “established and binding maxims of Florida law” forced him to deny the request.

“Based upon the constraints of the existing law, I will work with members of our Palm Beach County legislative delegation to ask the Legislature to amend the statute based on a right to justice — that if a person is deceased and the files in question have already been released, which are the facts of the Epstein case, that they would then become public record,” said Abruzzo, who served in the state House and Senate before his election as Palm Beach County Court Clerk.

“I will leave no stone unturned to do whatever I can to shed full light and public disclosure on the Epstein case,” he vowed.

Last week he brought in backup to help secure the change. New lobbying registrations show that the team at Ballard Partners — including Brian Ballard, Mathew Forest and Adrian Lukis — have signed on to represent Abruzzo’s office in both the Legislature and the executive branch.

We are proud to assist Sen. Abruzzo with this incredibly important matter,” Ballard said.

As of Wednesday, no bills have been filed that would amend the relevant statute, though Abruzzo said on Jan. 4 that “talks to find an amendment sponsor are already underway.”

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


One comment

  • Robert Rivas

    January 13, 2022 at 2:35 pm

    This story begs certain questions. In the circuit court action, Abruzzo fought furiously to keep the grand jury records secret. He says he supported their release but was compelled to defend the law. That’s baloney. Any public official in his position would have been doing everything required of them to turn the matter over to the attorney general to defend the law. Nothing legitimately called for Abruzzo to hire, at the public’s expense, the most expensive lawyers in town to wage an extremely aggressive opposition to The Post’s lawsuit. So now he engages the most expensive lobbyists in the state to amend the law and wants to be praised for it. Is the public actually paying for this? It is possible Ballard Partners is doing this pro bono for its “good publicity” and public service value, but I would expect the story to say so or reveal how much Abruzzo is paying to reverse the legal error he fought to secure. This is from a fellow Alligator alum. I hope you follow up with the rest of the story. Don’t let Abruzzo tell you that anything in law or public duty required the clerk’s office to fight so hard against public disclosure, when he could have just left it up to the attorney general to do her usual highly politicized half-assed job of representing the state in court.

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