Florida financial disclosure law blocked by federal judge

A U.S. District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the Florida Commission on Ethics from enforcing the new Form 6 requirements for elected officials.

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United States District Court Judge Melissa Damian has issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the Florida Commission on Ethics from enforcing the new Form 6 requirements for elected officials. 

Damian found that “it is not apparent from the record that a change from the Form 1 requirement to the Form 6 requirement was necessary, nor that S.B. 774 is substantially related to the state’s identified interests.”

The new Florida Form 6, which we first told you about here, was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year.

The form is facing two lawsuits filed by Weiss Serota Helfman Cole + Bierman, PL.

More than 170 elected municipal officials from throughout Florida challenged the law as a violation of the First Amendment.  

Damian ruled the elected municipal officials “have demonstrated a reasonable likelihood that they will succeed on the merits of their claim” and prevented the members of the commission from enforcing the new requirement statewide during the pendency of the lawsuit.  

“This is the most intrusive form of financial disclosure that I am aware of in the entire nation, requiring more disclosure of quintessentially personal financial information than is required of the president of the United States, members of Congress and elected officials in every other state,” Jamie A. Cole, firm partner and Fort Lauderdale office managing director and the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs, said in a press release. “Most municipal elected officials receive little to no compensation for their public service, yet they are being asked to disclose their precise net worth, income and assets. This legislative overreach has already resulted in the mass resignation of about 125 municipal elected officials and, if allowed, would discourage many others from serving their communities.”

Cole added the preliminary injunction is a significant step in the plaintiffs’ efforts to ultimately obtain a ruling that the Form 6 disclosure requirements are unconstitutional.

WSHC+B partners Edward G. Guedes and Anne R. Flanigan, as well as associate Jeremy Rosner, are co-counsel with Cole in representing the plaintiffs.


Locally, the town of Windermere is one of the municipalities that are part of the lawsuit

The first lawsuit was filed Thursday, Feb. 15, in the Leon County Circuit Court.

The complaint, filed in Florida court, states the form violates city officials’ right to privacy under the Florida Constitution. The lawsuit called the added disclosure “an unwarranted intrusion into the privacy of municipal elected officials” and an unnecessary safety risk. It states the airing of personal financial details could make officials targets of robbery, identity theft and extortion.

A second suit, filed in federal court, contends it violates their right to be free of government compelled speech under the U.S. Constitution. The complaint states the added financial disclosure “does not prevent or even ameliorate” conflicts of interest or public corruption and does not increase public confidence in government.

The complaints both were filed against the commission members who enforce the law. The complaints argue there are less-restrictive means available to accomplish the “compelling state interest” of evaluating conflicts of interest and deterring corruption. 

Officials who fail to file the form can face a civil penalty of up to $20,000 and potential removal from office following an investigation and public hearing, according to the complaints.

Unlike county and state officials, many city officials, primarily in smaller municipalities, receive little or no pay for their service.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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