Circuit judge to begin discussions in blind trust lawsuit

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On Wednesday, a Leon County circuit judge will launch the initial steps in a lawsuit challenging a 2013 law that permits public officials to place assets in blind trusts upon taking office.

Circuit Judge John Cooper scheduled a “case management conference” in the litigation filed by Jim Apthorp for 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Apthorp was chief of staff for former Gov. Reubin Askew, according to the court docket.

The case, originally filed in the Florida Supreme Court, seeks to block Secretary of State Ken Detzner from accepting qualifying papers of any candidate using a blind trust. However, the Court sent the case to the circuit court last week.

The qualifying period for November’s state elections is June 16 through June 20.

Apthorp’s argument is that blind trusts violate the “full and public” disclosure conditions of the open-government Sunshine Amendment, under which elected officials must provide details on financial interests.

Supporters of the 2013 law say blind trusts allow elected officials avoid the appearance of conflict of interest between public duties and private finances.

Gov. Rick Scott has used a blind trust, and his campaign says he will act accordingly, based on the court decision.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.