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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Apr. 2, 2004 14 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

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This week's items: Two petitions say court record moratorium is 'damaging'An Internet site by the bail bond industry is taking area judges to taskInfinium Labs Inc. filed a lawsui over a HardOCP.com article

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

Moratorium is 'damaging'

Two petitions have been filed with the Florida Supreme Court seeking changes to the Florida Chief Justice Harry Anstead's recent moratorium on court records.

One petition was brought on behalf of the business interests of the Florida Land Title Association, First American Title Insurance Co. and Power in Data Inc., while the second was pushed by media outlets, including The Tampa Tribune, NYT Management Services Inc. and the Orlando Sentinel.

"We are hoping the court will issue an immediate order rescinding the moratorium," says Katherine Giddings of Akerman Senterfitt, Tallahassee, one of the drafters of the title association's petition. "We believe that the moratorium that the Florida Legislature already has put in place is sufficient."

The petitioners contend the moratorium imposed by the state's high court is not only more restrictive than necessary to protect the public from record abuse, but it damages businesses and other record users.

In addition, the petition asserts the moratorium is illogical in several ways. For instance, the moratorium allows attorneys of record to access a document image on the Internet, but that "attorney has copies of what has been filed. It is the attorney who is not yet of record who has the greatest need to view information in court files related to the attorney's practice (e.g. obtaining information from other cases related to the attorney's clients or addressing similar issues)."

Revolving door

An Internet site sponsored by the bail bond industry is taking state judges in Manatee, Sarasota, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties to task for releasing criminal defendants without bail or too little bail.

Charlotte, Polk, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties are among those listed as "compliant." The group, calling itself the Concerned Citizens for Pre-Trial Compliance, operates the Web site, floridasrevolvingdoor.com.

Problem: "Judges in our society have become ideologs (sic), they want to make laws instead of interpreting them."

Solution: "We will post the most outrageous and flagrant violations of the public trust. You the citizenry in turn can vent your feelings and opinions about these judicial undertakings. ¦ Judges are accountable to the people who elected them, if they are not then it is the taxpayers moral duty to remember them at the ballot box."

Manatee Circuit Judge Rick DeFuria is criticized for his release of six inmates since September 2003, including Everett Ricky Mays who the judge placed on "supervised release." Mays later failed to attend a court hearing. (And DeFuria issued a warrant for his arrest.)

DeFuria wasn't available for comment prior to GCBR's deadline. But a Manatee court employee said it was ludicrous that the site criticized DeFuria. "Supervised release is much more stringent than simply being out on bail," she says. "Of course, the bail bondsmen will complain. They're out to make money."

In Sarasota, judges Charles Roberts and Judith Goldman are under fire by the group. Goldman, a county judge, released an inmate who had failed to show up for a previous court hearing, without bond. While Roberts is criticized for the release of two inmates.

Infinium fires back

Infinium Labs Inc. filed a lawsuit in Sarasota against KB Networks Inc., Steve Lynch and Kyle Bennett charging that a September 2003 article by the technology news Web site HardOCP.com was libelous and defamatory to the company.

The latest legal salvo follows a lawsuit by HardOCP.com filed in February in Dallas federal court against the developer of the unreleased Phantom video game console. The suit was intended to show the Web site article did not libel Timothy Roberts, Infinium Labs' CEO, when it questioned his past business dealings and ability to deliver the console.

The legal back-and-forth started in February, when Infinium Labs attorneys sent HardOCP.com a letter threatening legal retaliation if changes were not made to the article entitled, "Behind the Infinium Phantom Console."

Longboat Observer Inc. starts Siesta paper

The Longboat Observer Inc. announced this week the startup of a new weekly newspaper and the renaming of one of its existing newspapers.

The company was expected to begin distributing on Friday, April 2, its first edition of The Siesta Observer. As its name says, the paper will serve Siesta Key, primarily via free home delivery and bulk-rack distribution. The paper also will be distributed in selected areas in downtown Sarasota, South Side and Gulf Gate. Initially press runs will be 10,500.

The newspaper will include a front section devoted to Siesta Key news, events and people; a Black Tie section devoted to the season's social and charitable events from around the area; and an Arts & Entertainment section.

Next week, the company will open an office on Ocean Boulevard in Siesta Village. Its staff will include two reporters, an editor and an advertising sales representative.

At the same time, The Longboat Observer Inc. renamed its On The Ranch bimonthly to The Osprey Observer. Publisher Matt Walsh said the company changed the name to create a better brand identity with all of the company's community newspapers and to eliminate some confusion in the marketplace about which areas On The Ranch served.

Matthew Fagin and Roseanna Petrella founded On The Ranch as a monthly five years ago to serve Palmer Ranch, the Oaks, Casey Key and Osprey. Last October, they sold it to The Longboat Observer Inc.

Since then, the paper has converted to twice-monthly frequency. It is mailed free to more than 19,000 homes in Palmer Ranch, the Oaks, Casey Key and Osprey and includes another 2,000 distribution in racks throughout the area.

With the introduction of The Siesta Observer, The Longboat Observer Inc. now publishes six newspapers. They include The Longboat Observer, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year; The East County Observer, started in 1998; The Osprey Observer, The Siesta Observer and two editions of the Gulf Coast Business Review, one in Sarasota and one in Tampa. The company also publishes Season magazine, a quarterly guide to the region's arts, entertainment and social events. It has offices in Longboat Key, downtown Sarasota, East Manatee County, Siesta Key and Tampa.

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