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Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Plaintiff asks for oral arguments in ‘blind trusts’ case

Note: See 3:15 p.m. update at bottom.

The plaintiff in a case against politicians’ use of blind trusts is asking for the Florida Supreme Court to hear his lawyer’s arguments instead of handing the case off to a lower-court judge.

In a Wednesday motion, Jim Apthorp told the court that live argument would help the justices decide the constitutionality of a state law on blind trusts and other legal questions.

Apthorp, a former top aide to the late Gov. Reubin Askew, is challenging the trusts. They shield those receiving income from them against knowing where the money is coming from to avoid conflicts of interest.

Apthorp says they violate the Sunshine Amendment, approved by voters in 1976, that calls for elected officials and candidates to “file full and public disclosure of their financial interests.”

Gov. Rick Scott, running for re-election, is the only statewide official who has a blind trust.

Apthorp also filed a reply to the state, which earlier this week asked the court to dismiss the case, saying “blind trusts have been widely accepted in Florida for years, and they serve the very interests the Sunshine Amendment promotes.”

The state law passed last year allowing blind trusts is “not consistent” with the state Constitution, Apthorp argued: Because they hide sources of income, the trusts offer less disclosure, not more.

The reply also addresses charges made outside court documents that his suit was a “cynically timed political ploy.”

“The requested remedies would affect Democrats and Republicans equally,” Apthorp’s filing said. “It is not a partisan effort.”

UPDATE: The court on Wednesday afternoon rejected the request for oral arguments and ordered the case to be heard by a trial judge in Tallahassee.

All seven justices concurred, noting that the decision should not be taken as a “comment on the merits of the petition.”

The court’s order is here: tbo.ly/1sVt6vW