Let us be fair. There are times when lawyers show up as the good guys. Who among us does not remember the old Perry Mason books and TV shows? One lawyer successfully defends his client against the overwhelming force of the state.
There is a lot less publicity in civil work, which makes up much of what goes through the courts. That means we civil types get to stay out of the headlines unless we do something really bad.
Which brings us to the recent bad odors from Tallahassee. At one time, Holland & Knight were a respectable law firm with a lot of very smart people. They had a good reputation.
The Miami Herald used them for public records cases. They were the good guys, seeking to open up government. Florida government seeks to avoid the sunlight and public scrutiny, especially now with this governor.
Mostly, the governor spends his time exchanging warm words with the president. Each tells the other what a great job they are doing, and they feel better as a result. There is much mutual backslapping, with care not to smear the fake tan.
Both president and governor seek to shield information about their work from public scrutiny. The difference is that the president can declare his bunglers’ work to be classified.
In Florida, our constitution allows us to see what the governor’s henchmen are doing. That does not mean that the governor likes it.
The Miami Herald needed records to report on adult care home infections and deaths. Simple request, right? Not for Gov. DeSantis, who is busy covering up everything he can. The Miami Herald’s attorney sent a courtesy notice that if records were not forthcoming, a public-records lawsuit would be.
That stirred things up. DeSantis had his lawyer call a friend at Holland & Knight, telling them to drop the Herald.
Real lawyers would have told the governor how much sand was in Florida, and to go pound some. Instead, Holland & Knight dropped their client like a hot stink bomb, contrary to the form of Rule 4-1.2.
Sure, the Herald got another lawyer: These are good cases, and they need to be brought. So the governor mainly delayed things a little, and I suppose we can guess what he is thinking — delay long enough and hope people will forget what he is hiding.
— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.