Florida False Claims: Unique Aspects

This is the fifth segment of Tony Munter’s interview with Florida false claims attorney Gary Farmer. In the interview portion below, Mr. Farmer discusses some strange quirks about false claims cases in Florida. Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, or Part 4.

Gary:  I wanted to tell you real quick too about the Florida Act that’s a little different. The Florida statute is a little funky in that it doesn’t come right out and say affirmatively that the initial complaint is filed under seal. It’s really weird. It refers in later part of the stature to the sealed complaint. It does not specifically say that it is to be filed under seal. If you look at 68.083 is the section. Then subsection (2) talks about unsealing it. That’s actually an issue because years ago there was an issue down at Miami where it was this secret docket of this certain type of criminal cases.I don’t even remember the detail, but it created a hullabaloo and then new rules of judicial administration were drafted to make sure we didn’t use the secret dockets. So the chief judge in Leon County, which is where we have to file State False Claims cases, decided that he was not going to keep under seal the dockets for these cases.

Tony:  What.
Gary: Yes. He didn’t expose the whole docket, but you could see the caption of the initial pleading, which in and of itself was bad enough cause it reveals the Relator’s name.
Tony:  I was going to say no more telling the Relator that their name will be under seal.
Gary:  Yes. Difficult to say this is going to be confidential and you don’t have to worry about being blackballed or anything.
Tony: Is that still the case?
Gary: I believe the new chief judge has stopped that practice, but it went on for a couple of years.
Tony: Does that include cases that were filed federally with pending Florida jurisdiction or just Florida cases?
Gary: No. No. Just Florida cases on whatever it is the second circuit, judicial circuit in that circuit for state cases.
Tony:  Okay, because it would have created a firestorm if he would have been revealing the names of federal whistleblowers…To be fair about it it’s not really fair to the defendant either. The whole point is that they’re supposed to be…
Gary:   Correct.
Tony: I mean that’s the whole sort of bargain about having the case under seal. If there’s nothing there everybody can walk away and at least the defendant’s reputation isn’t harmed unnecessarily.
Gary:  Right.
Tony: That’s kind of a strange quirk.
Gary: Yeah.
Tony: Gary, it’s been great fun. I could talk to you for hours and hours and I appreciate it. … I really do hope I run into you on a case one of these days.
Gary: Yeah. I’d like that too. I appreciate the time. … I’m glad you’re doing this.  I love doing these cases. I really feel like we’re wearing a white hat when we do these cases. I tell my clients they’re patriots for bringing these cases and to see a government entity try to kill them really offensive to me. I appreciate you shedding a little light on this.
Tony:  Okay. My pleasure. I sleep at night knowing I’m a plaintiff’s Qui Tam Relator lawyer too.
Gary:  Right.