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Stephanie W. Ray

Matt Gaetz wins appeal for northwest Florida skydiving business

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Congressman Matt Gaetz, also an attorney, has won an appeal that should allow a Walton County couple to continue operating a skydiving business on their 290-acre farm near Paxton. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal issued its unanimous decision Tuesday for James and Melanie Nipper. He “had a distinguished career as a U.S. Army Paratrooper and member of the elite Golden Knights parachute team from 1981-1997;” she “was an Army pilot,” the opinion said. They have since retired from…

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Miami Herald loses appeal of “black outs” in public records

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public records

A Florida appeals court has ruled that state agencies don’t have to give a specific reason when they black out an individual bit of information in a document produced under a public-records request. Specifically, a three-judge panel of the the 1st District Court of Appeal said the state’s “Public Records Act does not require agencies to specifically identify the statutory exemption relied upon for each redaction on a redaction-by-redaction basis.” But one of the judges separately warned that Monday’s opinion…

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Appeal court splits over “cruel and unusual punishment” question

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A Tallahassee-based appeal court panel on Friday split 2-1 over whether a life sentence for touching an 11-year-old girl’s breast over her clothes is cruel and unusual punishment as banned by the U.S. Constitution. The 1st District Court of Appeal affirmed the “lewd or lascivious molestation” conviction and life sentence of Stephen C. Hanf, imprisoned at the Northwest Florida Reception Center in Chipley. A dissenting judge, though, said Hanf’s life without parole punishment is unconstitutional, calling it “grossly disproportionate” to the offense. “Cruel and unusual…

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