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Craig Waters receives Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award

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Craig Waters

Craig Waters

The First Amendment Foundation selected Supreme Court Communications Director Craig Waters as the recipient of its 2022 Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award in recognition of his groundbreaking use of the internet and video technology to open the workings of the Supreme Court — and the state court system — to the public.

“No one in this state has done more to open up justice in Florida to the public than Craig Waters,” said Pamela Marsh, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation. “He has dedicated his entire career to the public’s free access to the judicial system and its records. Craig has been an advocate for everything we stand for at the First Amendment Foundation.”

Having opened many doors to the public as the court’s communications director, Waters is retiring after 35 years of service at the end of February. In announcing Waters’ retirement, the court referred to him as “an innovative advocate for public trust and confidence in the judiciary, fierce warrior for government in the sunshine, and reluctant public face of the Florida Supreme Court when the world spotlight shone most brightly upon it.”

In 1994, Waters established the Supreme Court’s initial website, placing public court records online for the first time. In 1997, he organized the statewide broadcast and worldwide livestreams of Supreme Court oral arguments. Waters will be remembered for his role during the recount of the 2000 presidential election when the world’s attention focused on Florida for 36 days before the U.S. Supreme Court halted recounts in the case known as Bush v. Gore. And in 2009, Waters again chartered new territory when he began disseminating the court’s news and information using social media.

Craig Waters During the 2000 Election Appeals

Craig Waters during the 2000 election appeals

The Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award was created in 1995 to recognize the significant contribution to open government made by Pete Weitzel, former senior editor of The Miami Herald, and founder, past president, and current director emeritus of the First Amendment Foundation. The award is given annually to recognize a significant contribution to the cause of furthering open government.

“It is an honor to recognize Craig Waters for his relentless work for transparency in Florida’s court system,” said Amy Hollyfield, chair of the First Amendment Foundation Board of Trustees.

Past recipients include House Speaker Peter Rudy Wallace, Senate President Jim Scott, Senate President Toni Jennings, former Chief Justice Gerald Kogan, Attorney General Bob Butterworth, Sen. Locke Burt, Rep. Fred Brummer, Rep. John Carassas, Rep. Doug Wiles, FSU President Sandy D’Alemberte, Gov. Charlie Crist, Rep. Dan Gelber, Pat Gleason, Sen. Paula Dockery, Sen. Mike Fasano, and Sen. Joe Negron.

The First Amendment Foundation will present the Weitzel Award at the Florida Supreme Court’s retirement reception on Wednesday, February 9 at 2:30 p.m. The reception will take place at the Florida Supreme Court’s Library and is open to the public.

For more information on the Foundation’s Awards, Membership and Mission, visit www.floridafaf.org.

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