ACLU v. City of SarasotaVarious local law enforcement agencies in Florida use a portable device known as a “Stingray” to collect information from cell phones in the vicinity.  Also known as “cell site simulators,” Stingrays mimic cell service providers’ towers and broadcast electronic signals that force cell phones in the area to register their identifying information and location.  Stingrays collect information not only about specific targets of investigations, but also about hundreds or thousands of innocent third parties.  In May 2014, the ACLU sought to learn how the Sarasota Police used Stingrays. In response to the ACLU’s public records request, the Sarasota Police initially acknowledged sole possession, custody, and control of numerous state applications to use a Stingray and the orders granting the request.  However, hours before the ACLU was scheduled to review them, the City changed course and refused public access them. The ACLU sued to obtain public access to the learn about the state court’s oversight of the use of these Stingrays and when they allow them.

Brown et al., v Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department  - Since October 1, 2014, Miami-Dade County and the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department (MDCR) has explicitly singled out Muslim inmates to be denied Halal meals or other faith-based meals that comply with their religious beliefs, while providing faith-based meals to inmates of other religions.

Foster v. Florida Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (DMV)Foster sued the DMV for suspending his driver’s license for failure to pay the LFOs without first considering whether he had the ability to pay them.  Foster asserted the DMV’s practice violates basic fairness guaranteed by the Florida and U.S. Constitutions.  Foster, like most of the other criminal defendants whose license was similarly suspended, simply lacked the ability to pay the LFOs and lost his driver’s license as a consequence.

Hamilton v. Hall (Jail Postcard-Only Mail Policy)In July, 2010, Santa Rosa County Sheriff Wendell Hall instituted a Postcard-Only inmate mail policy.  The policy prohibited jail inmates from sending letters enclosed in envelopes to their parents, children, spouses, friends, other loved ones, or other correspondents.  Instead, Jail inmates had to write all of their correspondences in a postcard format except for privileged/legal mail.  This policy impermissibly restricted inmates’ ability to exercise their rights to communicate with correspondents outside the jail and these correspondents’ right to receive these inmates’ communications and expressions, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Jackson v. Florida Department of Corrections, et al. - Richard Jackson has paraparesis—partial paralysis of the lower limbs. Because of his disability, he cannot walk on his own and must use a wheelchair for mobility. However, prison officials at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution (“Santa Rosa CI”) refused to allow Jackson to have and use a wheelchair inside his cell.  As a result, to navigate within the cell—between his bed, toilet, cell door food hatch, and wash basin—and to enter and exit the cell, Jackson had to crawl using his hands and arms, dragging his body on the filthy prison floor. Jackson sued the Florida Department of Corrections and several officials at Santa Rosa CI.  He asserted that this treatment violated the protection against cruel and unusual punishment found in the Eight Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as the Americans with Disability Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Reilly v. Leon Sheriff For nearly two-hundred years, the Leon County Sheriff operated a “safe and secure”  county jail and allowed inmates to receive letters from friends and family.  However, in June 2014, the Sheriff of Leon County, Florida, instituted a Postcard-Only inmate mail policy.  Pursuant to this policy, all incoming mail sent to jail inmates, except legal or privileged mail, had to be in a postcard form. The Sheriff’s Postcard-Only policy affected families, like Joe Reilly who kept in touch with his son, a jail inmate, through personal letters. Letters were essential because of the high cost of telephones and difficulty of visiting for many, including Reilly who lives in Maryland.  Reilly sued the Leon Sheriff alleging the Postcard-Only policy violated his ability to freely and substantively communicate with his son. The Sheriff rescinded the policy, but has not committed to allowing letters going forward.

Washington v. Clerk for Marion County, Florida - Fairness demands that the state not sanction a person for something beyond his control.  This principle lies at the heart of Section 28.246(4), Fla. Stat.  When a criminal defendant cannot pay afford to pay in a single payment all of the court costs and fines (legal financial obligations or “LFOs”), the law permits him to pay what he can over time.  This payment plan saves him from suffering the usual consequence of unpaid LFOs—a suspension of driver’s license.

The Marion Clerk, however, does not see § 28.246(4), Fla. Stat., the same way.  Instead of considering what a person is able to pay, his policy sets payment plan installments based on what he owes.  Pursuant to this policy, he initially calculated Washington’s monthly installments to exceed $8,500, an amount out of the reach of all but the most wealthy.  Later, the Clerk arbitrarily proposed $75 per month.  But for a person with modest income and facing barriers to re-enter society after prison, this too is beyond his abilities.

Washington sued the clerk for refusing to enroll Washington on a reasonable and affordable payment plan in violation of the spirit and the letter of § 28.246(4), Fla. Stat.