Risk Update

Covid Conflict Navigation — Political Pressure Alleged

Holland & Knight Drops Miami Herald Records Suit After Call From DeSantis’ Office” —

  • “Shortly after receiving a call from the counsel to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Holland & Knight declined to go forward with a lawsuit on behalf of the Miami Herald that seeks to dislodge the names of elder-care facilities where people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.”
  • “After the call between DeSantis’ general counsel, Joe Jacquot, and Holland & Knight partner George Meros, the firm told partner Sanford Bohrer—who was directly representing the company—to abandon the lawsuit, according to the Herald and Bohrer. But the Am Law 100 firm says the decision was made to avoid conflicts and delays in the case.”
  • “Holland & Knight said the firm ‘acted appropriately in declining the representation of the Miami Herald. After assessing the possibility of a conflict of interest, the confidentiality of client communications, and the risk of an adverse impact or delay on the Miami Herald’s records request, the firm concluded that it was best for another law firm to take over the matter. Those were the only factors the firm considered. The records request will continue unimpeded with new counsel.'”
  • “University of Miami School of Law professor Jan Jacobowitz said Holland & Knight’s decision to drop the lawsuit could have happened for multiple reasons ranging from conflict rules to simple business considerations… Or, Holland & Knight may have decided that the firm should keep the state’s business rather than the Herald’s, Jacobowitz added.”
  • Said publisher and executive director of the Miami Herald in a published statement: “We are disappointed that the governor’s office would go so far as to apply pressure on our legal counsel to prevent the release of public records that are critical to the health and safety of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens. We shouldn’t have had to resort to legal action in the first place. Anyone with a relative in an elder-care facility has a right to know if their loved ones are at risk so they can make an informed decision about their care.”

Florida Officials Deny Pressuring Law Firm to Drop Coronavirus Records Case” —

  • “Denying the claim, the governor’s office said by phone Monday that Jacquot’s contact with Holland & Knight was limited to a routine conversation about a presuit notice he had received from the Herald.”
    “When asked if he exerted any pressure on the firm to withdraw from the litigation, Jacquot said, ‘Not at all. My only purpose for calling was that [there was] a five-day window to see if we could figure out some resolution, which we are still working on.'”
  • “Helen Ferre, a spokesperson for Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, added: ‘We’re undergoing [a] global pandemic. This public records request was made March 23. We only have essential workers who are physically in the building, so it’s taking a little bit longer to fulfill all the public records requests. Two and a half weeks, especially under these circumstances, is not an unreasonable time.”'”