(1) If a civil action is filed against an agency to enforce the provisions of this chapter, the court shall assess and award the reasonable costs of enforcement, including reasonable attorney fees, against the responsible agency if the court determines that:
(a) The agency unlawfully refused to permit a public record to be inspected or copied; and
Terms Used In Florida Statutes 119.12
- Agency: means any state, county, district, authority, or municipal officer, department, division, board, bureau, commission, or other separate unit of government created or established by law including, for the purposes of this chapter, the Commission on Ethics, the Public Service Commission, and the Office of Public Counsel, and any other public or private agency, person, partnership, corporation, or business entity acting on behalf of any public agency. See Florida Statutes 119.011
- Custodian of public records: means the elected or appointed state, county, or municipal officer charged with the responsibility of maintaining the office having public records, or his or her designee. See Florida Statutes 119.011
- Damages: Money paid by defendants to successful plaintiffs in civil cases to compensate the plaintiffs for their injuries.
- person: includes individuals, children, firms, associations, joint adventures, partnerships, estates, trusts, business trusts, syndicates, fiduciaries, corporations, and all other groups or combinations. See Florida Statutes 1.01
- Public records: means all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of the physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency. See Florida Statutes 119.011
(b) The complainant provided written notice identifying the public record request to the agency’s custodian of public records at least 5 business days before filing the civil action, except as provided under subsection (2). The notice period begins on the day the written notice of the request is received by the custodian of public records, excluding Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays, and runs until 5 business days have elapsed.
(2) The complainant is not required to provide written notice of the public record request to the agency’s custodian of public records as provided in paragraph (1)(b) if the agency does not prominently post the contact information for the agency’s custodian of public records in the agency’s primary administrative building in which public records are routinely created, sent, received, maintained, and requested and on the agency’s website, if the agency has a website.
(3) The court shall determine whether the complainant requested to inspect or copy a public record or participated in the civil action for an improper purpose. If the court determines there was an improper purpose, the court may not assess and award the reasonable costs of enforcement, including reasonable attorney fees, to the complainant, and shall assess and award against the complainant and to the agency the reasonable costs, including reasonable attorney fees, incurred by the agency in responding to the civil action. For purposes of this subsection, the term “improper purpose” means a request to inspect or copy a public record or to participate in the civil action primarily to cause a violation of this chapter or for a frivolous purpose.
(4) This section does not create a private right of action authorizing the award of monetary damages for a person who brings an action to enforce the provisions of this chapter. Payments by the responsible agency may include only the reasonable costs of enforcement, including reasonable attorney fees, directly attributable to a civil action brought to enforce the provisions of this chapter.