Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Petition for Writ of Mandamus To Obtain Purported Public Records Denied

In Harvard v. City of Palm Springs, the Fourth District affirmed the Circuit Court's denial of a petition for writ of mandamus. The mother of a minor involved in an altercation sought the police report and video interview of the other minor. The city agreed it could provide the information, however, argued that the decision to provide the material was discretionary. The court stated:
The Village concedes that Harvard, as the representative of her son, qualifies as a "victim." However, the Village emphasizes that although section 985.04(3) permits the release of a juvenile offense report to a victim, such a release is discretionary, not mandatory. In support of its argument, the Village emphasizes the presence of the word "may" in the statute.
First, we address whether the Village was required to produce the requested juvenile offense report to Harvard under section 985.04(3). Our analysis begins by applying accepted rules of statutory construction. "Legislative intent is the polestar that guides a court?s statutory construction analysis." Bautista v. State, 863 So. 2d 1180, 1185 (Fla. 2003). In attempting to discern legislative intent, we first look to the actual language used in the statute. Joshua v. City of Gainesville, 768 So. 2d 432, 435 (Fla. 2000). If the statute is clear and unambiguous, we will not look behind its plain language for legislative intent or resort to rules of statutory construction to ascertain intent. See Lee County Elec. Coop., Inc. v. Jacobs, 820 So. 2d 297, 303 (Fla. 2002). In such an instance, “the statute’s plain and ordinary meaning must control, unless this leads to an unreasonable result or a result clearly contrary to legislative intent.” State v. Burris, 875 So. 2d 408, 410 (Fla. 2004). Here, the issue is whether the term “may” as used in section 985.04(3) is permissive or mandatory. We hold that the plain language of section 985.04(3) is unambiguous, and thus interpret the word “may” as a permissive term. Noel v. Sheldon J. Schlesinger, P.A., 984 So. 2d 1265, 1267 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) (“The word ‘may’ denotes a permissive term rather than the mandatory connotation of the word ‘shall.’”) (citations and quotations omitted). Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s ruling that the Village was not required to produce the requested juvenile offense report to Harvard.
The court also rejected the mother's attempt to obtain a copy of the video interview of her son. The public records request fell into an exemption.


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