Courts don't side with openness | June 1, letter
Courts support scrutiny of spending
The Pinellas clerk of the court's letter regarding a Times editorial confuses the legal question of access to audio recordings and makes an unfounded accusation that judges will not follow the law regarding access to court records. Further, the judiciary is attacked for what is wrongly described as a "well-orchestrated effort" to undermine the clerks of court by supporting SB 2108, legislation designed to bring fiscal responsibility to Florida's 67 clerks of court.
The judges in the 6th Judicial Circuit firmly believe in the public's right of access to court records. The judges also firmly believe in the importance of protecting attorney-client communications and the importance of protecting citizens' rights when they observe court proceedings.
The court wants to encourage the public to attend and observe court proceedings, and not be concerned that their private conversations will be available to others. The court wants to allow a defense lawyer to communicate with his or her client in the courtroom without having those protected conversations revealed. Similarly, the court wants lawyers for the state to confer about strategy without those conversations being revealed to the defense.
That is why the chief judge has determined that records of court proceedings will be provided in the form of a written transcript.
The clerk's letter also suggests that SB 2108 will lead to the court taking over the functions of the clerk and would lead to less accountability to the public. Such a suggestion implies a basic misconception about the role of the clerk of the court, which is a ministerial office subject to the direction of the chief judge. Contrary to the clerk's comments, SB 2108 is designed to bring about greater public accountability.
SB 2108 brings the clerks under the same legislative budgetary process as state agencies and the courts. The Legislature decided that taxpayer resources expended by the clerks should be subject to the same scrutiny that all other appropriations receive.
Gov. Charlie Crist should sign SB 2108 into law. It provides important budgetary oversight and provides for a review that may save tax dollars. The court welcomes this scrutiny. I wonder why the clerk does not also welcome the same scrutiny.
Elaine New, court counsel for the 6th Judicial Circuit, Clearwater
Prescription drug database
Have sympathy for people in pain
My husband is Richard Paey, the chronic pain patient who was thrown into prison for 31/2 years before receiving a rare, miraculous pardon by Gov. Charlie Crist and the clemency board. The sheriff's department and the court system labeled him a drug abuser since he needed high-dose pain medications for his spinal injury.
Most people involved in our medical system do not understand chronic pain. Emergency rooms and pharmacy staff lack basic understanding, let alone the law enforcement community. They spend more energy in trying to find patients who are faking than treating patients who are suffering right in front of them. They are all quick to call a patient a drug abuser or a doctor a drug pusher, never caring to research if the patients they encounter do indeed have unremitting pain like Richard did.
Who will protect the many vulnerable pain patients and their doctors? Safeguards are needed. Most physicians are afraid to write strong pain medications, so people in pain are referred to physicians trained to treat severe pain. These offices, therefore, generate a high number of pain prescriptions. Truthfully, I do not trust the state to be able to tell the difference between a professional pain office and a "pill mill." I understand the need to find a solution to prescription drug abuse, but as more and more pressures are placed on pain patients, it starts to look to me like harassment.
Linda Paey, Hudson
Pain pill database urgently needed | June 3, editorial
Stop the abuse
I would like to ask the "13 lawmakers who wrote the governor seeking a veto" on the drug monitoring bill if they use the Internet to purchase any items. If they are so worried about privacy, I would assume they have never bought anything through Amazon or on eBay.
Privacy — I am so tired of that excuse. The Virginia hoax is just that, a hoax probably by a drug manufacturer whose profits have been cut by states adopting prescription drug monitoring programs.
Florida is a haven for drug dealers, "pain management doctors," pharmacies (notice there are two drugs stores on almost every corner) and drug manufacturers.
We need to stop the doctor shopping and put those doctors in jail who are prescribing pills for profit. We need to save lives. Too many innocent people, old and young, have died or become seriously addicted due to the greed of pill pushers (both legal and illegal). We need this bill signed.
For more information go to www.StopRxDrug Abuse.org.
Teresa Miller, Tampa
Rubio defends his record | June 3, story
Marco Rubio's lame attempt to defend his record as Florida House speaker during the Ray Sansom corruption scandal is laughable.
Either he was completely ignorant of what his underlings were doing during his tenure as speaker, or he knew of the corruption and chose to look the other way. Voters can conclude in either case that Speaker Rubio's leadership was highly questionable.
Ignorance may be bliss, Mr. Rubio, but it hardly excuses you from your culpability for corruption on your watch.
Robin George Yates, Hudson
Litter on the beach keeps bag lady busy May 27, Sue Carlton column
Roadsides suffer, too
I, too, am a "bag lady" for Keep Pinellas Beautiful. The James Wood family of Clearwater has adopted Old Coachman Road and others totaling about 10 miles, and we pick up trash on these streets at least once a month.
It is a shame that we have to be honored as adopt-a-mile volunteers for the past three years. We have picked up countless cups, even lawn mowers and everything in between.
Trash thrown out of cars not only ruins our landscape but harms wildlife and human health as well. I would like to see stiffer fines for littering such as in Nebraska, where it is $500 and/or jail time if caught. Please contact our governor to start this action, and maybe our neighborhoods will be litter-free.
Betsy Wood, Clearwater