An appeals court Tuesday ordered a circuit judge to hold a hearing in a public records lawsuit involving research conducted on animals at the University of Florida.
In the lawsuit, Karen Kline sought to force the university to release material, such as images of animals, veterinary records and research protocols, according to Tuesday’s ruling by a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal.
But Alachua County Circuit Judge Robert Roundtree Jr. last year reviewed the material privately — a review known as an “in-camera” inspection — and rejected Kline’s request.
The appellate court said the state’s public records law required a hearing to determine whether the material should be released.
“We direct the (circuit) court on remand to conduct a hearing as required by (state law) and to resolve any dispute between the parties as to whether there are records responsive to Kline’s requests and whether such records are partially or wholly exempt from disclosure,” said the ruling, written by appellate court Judge Lori Rowe and joined by judges Scott Makar of Jacksonville and Ross Bilbrey.
In his decision in August 2015, Roundtree pointed to part of state law that provides a public records exemption related to university research.
“Despite the broad public records provisions (of state law), the Legislature has exempted certain documents from these provisions,” Roundtree wrote. “The subject animal research projects may well lead to important medical developments to the benefit of members of the public.
“The confidentiality of such research is necessary if the intellectual property generated by the researchers on behalf of the University of Florida is to lead to patentable materials and result in funding to support the research,” he continued. “Protection of the material is important to future development and research by the University of Florida.”
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