The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org

Reporter's Handbook


Governmental Access and Internet Resources
By Linda Carol
(Updated January 2013 by Nadia B. Ahmad)

Florida law granting open access to governmental information is essentially “access upon demand.” The journalist’s challenge, though, is to locate reliable and accurate information in an efficient manner. Developing a sufficient working knowledge of governmental entities, statutes and rules, procedures that overlay the particular subject matter, and an awareness of interplay between various entities that together control the outcome of each matter presents further challenges. Without the journalists understanding the nuances of law and government, the public will receive stories that overlook vital analysis and omit relevant details, an entirely preventable outcome because of available internet resources relating to governmental information.

This chapter seeks to maximize speedy and efficient access to Florida’s governmental bodies by listing some key websites and points of contact as a place to begin inquiry. Navigating through governmental operations and processes can seem like an overwhelming task, but a little “surfing” in advance plus posing questions to governmental staff and other members will reward a journalist with the best possible access.

A great starting place for governmental access is http://www.MyFlorida.com. This homepage offers a multitude of information portals. There are special sections addressing Florida Visitors; “Floridian” information informing residents; Government, linking to all branches of government: State, counties, municipalities, districts and boards, U.S. government links; and Business, offering specialized links. Surfing this site thoroughly will be time well-spent, and you will be amazed at the myriad resources at your fingertips.

Here is an alphabetical list of some other favorites:

Administrative Hearings http://www.doah.state.fl.us/ALJ
Attorneys anywhere in U.S., Canada http://www.martindale.com http://www.avvo.com
Attorneys in Florida http://www.floridabar.org
Attorney General Opinions (AGOs) http://myfloridalegal.com/opinions
Dictionary - Legal http://dictionary.law.com
Multilingual http://translate.google.com
Decode acronyms; do reverse lookup http://www.acronymfinder.com
Online dictionaries http://www.onelook.com/
Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com
Corporation Filings http://ccfcorp.dos.state.fl.us/index.html
Criminal Background Checks http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/CriminalHistory
http://www.dc.state.fl.us/
Day Care Licensing Files http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/community/group/FAQ/ChildCareCenterFAQ.htm
Death and other Certificates http://www.doh.state.fl.us
Driver License and History Records http://www.flhsmv.gov
Embassy - U.S. http://travel.state.gov
Americans abroad directory http://www.embassy.org/ibc/usabroad
Encyclopedia http://www.britannica.com
Findlaw – Comprehensive Legal Website http://www.findlaw.com
Fla. Administrative Code https://www.flrules.org
Fla. Bar http://www.floridabar.org
Fla. Commission on Ethics http://www.ethics.state.fl.us
Fla. Dept. of Economic Opportunity http://www.floridajobs.org
Fla. Dept. of Corrections http://www.dc.state.fl.us
Fla. Dept. of Law Enforcement http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Content/home.aspx
Fla. Dept. of State, Div. of Corporations http://www.sunbiz.org
Forms, filing info., name availability
Fla. Government Info Locator http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/fgils
State Library/Archives/Records:
Tourism, Education/History, Culture
Fla. House/Senate Bills - Statutes http://www.leg.state.fl.us
Fla. Law Online http://floridalawonline.net
Fla. Law Weekly http://www.floridalawweekly.com/flwonline
Fla. League of Cities http://www.floridaleagueofcities.com
Fla. Missing Children Info. Clearinghouse http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/MCICSearch
Fla. Most Wanted List http://pas.fdle.state.fl.us/pas/pashome.a
Fla. Newspapers http://newslink.org/flnews.html
Fla. Secretary of State, Div. of Corporations http://ccfcorp.dos.state.fl.us/index.html
Fla. Contracts http://www.dms.myflorida.com/business_operations/state_purchasing/vendor_information/state_contracts_agreements_and_price_lists
Fla. Statutes http://www.leg.state.fl.us
Fla. Supreme Court, lower courts http://www.flcourts.org
Briefs, opinions http://www.law.fsu.edu/library/flsupct/index.html
Fla. Water Management Districts http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/fgils/wmd.html

First Amendment
The Freedom Forum 1st Am. Ctr. http://www.freedomforum.org
Student Press Law Center http://www.splc.org
Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act) http://www.epic.org/open_gov/foia/us_foia_act.html
Brechner Center for FOI http://www.brechner.org
Electronic Frontier Foundation http://www.eff.org
National FOI Coalition http://www.nfoic.org
Reporters Comm. for http://www.rcfp.org
Freedom of the Press
Society of Professional Journalists http://www.spj.org
Investigative Reporters & Editors http://www.ire.org
Internet Legal Research Group http://www.ilrg.com

Law School Libraries
http://www.law.ufl.edu/library
http://www.nsulaw.nova.edu/library
http://law.indiana.edu/lawlibrary/research/resources/
http://www.law.cornell.edu/
http://www.law.stetson.edu/library/
http://www.law.fsu.edu/library

Legal Citation http://www.law.cornell.edu/citation
Legal News http://www.cnn.com/JUSTICE
Lobbyist Registration & Expenditure Records http://www.leg.state.fl.us
Municipal Code Corp. http://www.municode.com
Professional Disciplinary Reports http://www.fdhc.state.fl.us
(chiropractors, dentists, podiatrists, physicians)
Public Service Commission http://www.psc.state.fl.us
Regional Planning Councils http://www.sfrpc.com/whatsnew/websites/wwwrpcs.htm
Robert’s Rules of Order, Local Search Engines http://www.constitution.org
Sexual Offender and Predator Database http://offender.fdle.state.fl.us/offender/Search.jsp
U.S. Code http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode
U.S. Code of Federal Regulations http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/index.html
U.S. Congressional/Library of Congress http://thomas.loc.gov
U.S. Senate http://www.senate.gov
U.S. House of Reps. http://www.house.gov
U.S. Dept. of Labor/Bureau of Labor Stat. http://www.dol.gov
U.S. Government Information http://www.info.gov
Global info http://www.gils.net
U.S. Supreme Court http://www.supremecourt.gov
Court decisions http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/supreme.html
U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Cir. http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions
Alabama, Florida and Georgia

One of the most exciting websites is http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/index.cfm, the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services. You can revisit Florida history at the State photo archives with thousands of images that may be viewed and used to accompany your journalistic efforts.

Online Sunshine is located at http://www.leg.state.fl.us/, and is the home of “Online Sunshine,” the portal to the Florida Legislature, Senators and Representatives. The website includes information about both houses and contacts to all of the legislators, bills that are current or were previously filed, enacted statutes, the Florida Constitution, and lobbying. If you would like further information or updates, or desire personal contact, please telephone the Clerk of the House of Representatives at (850) 488-1157, or the Secretary of the Senate at (850) 487-5270.

The Internet site for the judicial branch is http://www.flcourts.org/, and will take you to all Florida State Courts with websites. The Links page is an excellent starting point for Florida-specific legal research; federal, state and local government links; professional associations; and other general and miscellaneous resources. The Florida courts are structured with the Florida Supreme Court as the highest court in the State, with five District Courts of Appeal under the Florida Supreme Court, Judicial Circuit Courts below that are each responsible for several counties, and 67 corresponding County Courts.

Please THE FLORIDA BAR for additional helpful information. Call the Public Information & Bar Services Department at (850) 561-5666, or visit the Internet website at http://www.floridabar.org/.


Authored by the Media & Communications Law Committee, the handbook serves as a resource guide for members of the media about topics in the legal profession.

[Revised: 2013]