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Republican Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) gets to celebrate another victory in court today after Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey dismissed a lawsuit related to the transport of illegal immigrants from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard Massachusetts in 2022.

The lawsuit alleged the Florida Department of Transportation and a contractor did not comply with a public records request about the operation that made national headlines for months, eclipsing even Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R-TX) bussing of illegal immigrants to so-called ‘Sanctuary Cities.’

Judge Dempsey issued two similar decisions just last week according to The Floridian Press. The Circuit Judge rejected a lawsuit from a Florida non-profit organization, the Florida Center for Government Accountability against FDOT and Vertol Systems Company, Inc.

Judge Dempsey ruled that the center failed to prove the Department or the contractor withheld records.

“The burden is on the plaintiff to prove they made a specific request for public records, that Vertol received the request, the requested public records exist and Vertol refused to provide them in a timely manner,” Dempsey wrote in one of the decisions reported by the Floridian Press.

“While plaintiff meets the first and second prongs of the test,” the court said, adding, “there is no evidence that the public records exist or that Vertol refused to produce public records in a timely manner.”


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The flights that took place on Sept. 14th, 2022 and took off in San Antonio, landed in Northwest Florida to pick up illegal immigrants, and then moved on to Martha’s Vineyard. Gov. DeSantis funded the flight using $12 million that the Florida legislature had already approved to transport illegal immigrants out of Florida.

The plaintiff contended that after it submitted records requests approximately a week later, the contractor Vertol did not fully comply.

WESH 2 reported the somewhat exhaustive list of records demands that even included incredibly broad requirements such as,

“All records sent to or received from Vertol Systems Company, including any agency, agent, representative, employee, attorney or other individual or entity acting on behalf of VertolSystems Company, during the period between Aug. 15, 2022, and 6 a.m. on Sept. 15, 2022. All records sent to or received from Greg Abbott, or any agent, representative, employee, attorney or other individual or entity acting on behalf of Greg Abbott, or the State of Texas, during the period between Sept. 1, 2022, and 6 am. on Sept. 15, 2022, relating to any of the following subject matters:

  • The migrant relocation program
  • The transport of individuals from Texas to Florida;
  • The transport of individuals from Texas to Massachusetts;
  • Printing written materials about the availability of services in Massachusetts;
  • Delivering written materials about the availability of services in Massachusetts”

The outlet reported that the request even included the cellular “text logs” of James Uthmeier, Chief of Staff to Governor Ron DeSantis from Sept. 1, 2022, through 6 a.m. on Sept. 15, 2022.

Dempsey took particular aim at the argument that text messages could possibly be considered public records.

“(Under) Florida caselaw, there are classes of documents that may be in the possession and control of Vertol that do not fall within the category of a ‘public record,’” she wrote. “The mere fact that a document, such as an email or test message, is part of Vertol’s files does not make it a ‘public record.’ Even if the text or email is downloaded to the agency’s computer, it does not convert it to a ‘public record.’”

The judge also noted that  “there was no unlawful refusal to provide public records by the FDOT.”

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