Journalism groups question Fla. autopsy photo law





FLORIDA ' Five journalism organizations, including the Student Press Law Center, signed on to the Independent Florida Alligator's case that questions the constitutionality of the Earnhardt Family Protection Act.

The friend-of-the-court brief, filed in November, supports the University of Florida newspaper's case. The paper is asking the court to strike down the law and grant the paper access to the autopsy photos of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, who died in February at the Daytona 500.

The measure was passed in response to the Orlando Sentinel and the Alligator's request to see the photos. In June, Circuit Judge Joseph Will ruled the law was constitutional and denied the request.

In the appeal, the Alligator and the journalism groups argue the law violates the state's sunshine law amendment.

The legal brief highlights the importance of the records, which serve as the means for holding government agencies accountable for their actions.

'There is no common law right of privacy in public records, no state constitutional right of privacy in public records, and no federal right of privacy in public records,' the brief states. 'A medical examiner is a public official performing his public duties when he conducts an autopsy, and the photographs of that autopsy are the visual records of the performance of that government function.'


reports, Winter 2001-02