National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Florida First Amendment Foundation: Judge rules for Gulf Stream in battle over public records lawsuits

In what may become a powerful weapon for governments to use to block people from filing frivolous public records lawsuits, a Palm Beach County judge this week said he will consider imposing sanctions against a Gulf Stream man who has buried the tiny town with hundreds of requests for information.

Turning a lawsuit Christopher O’Hare filed against the oceanfront town against him, Circuit Judge Thomas Barkdull ruled that O’Hare acted in bad faith when he filed as many as 60 public records requests a day and then sued Gulf Stream when it couldn’t keep up with his demands.

“O’Hare’s conduct in this case was clearly intended to inappropriately manufacture public records requests in order to generate public records litigation and attorney’s fees,” Barkdull wrote in an 18-page decision.

Instead of having any true desire for information, O’Hare used the state’s public records laws to inundate the town with “gotcha type requests,” Barkdull wrote. O’Hare’s intent was to “harass and intimidate the town’s employees to generate litigation and fees,” the judge said.