The mailing contains anti-Semitic cartoons and an article titled “Building a New White World,” along with a letter calling on attorneys to join their organization.
“We need legal talent to augment our technical, musical and writing talent,” stated the letter, signed by Tampa unit coordinator Todd Weingart. “That’s why we’re writing to you today.”
Attorneys who received the letter were doubly shocked to learn that the Bar sold the organization its mailing list and prepared labels for the group for a fee.
The Bar is technically an arm of the Florida Supreme Court and is considered a quasi-public agency. Anyone can obtain names and addresses of lawyers from the Bar’s Web site.
But the Bar also sells mailing lists and prepares labels of attorneys and their addresses for a fee, said Paul Hill, the Bar’s general counsel. Lawyers throughout the state receive frequent mailings from lawyers announcing new addresses and partnerships and from companies that market products and services to lawyers.
Hill said the Bar had no idea it was selling the list to a neo-Nazi group when the National Alliance contracted the Bar to print labels for all 2,500 members of its criminal law section.
But even if the Bar had known the nature of the group, it would have had to sell it lists and labels, Hill said.
“This is a dark side of our public records law,” he said. “We can’t screen the message. We can’t be selective — it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. We are trying to explain to everyone … sometimes they have to hold their nose or use their trash can.”
Criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, prosecutors and judges are all members of the Florida Bar’s criminal law section and received the letters.
The charge for labels is 10 cents per name. The National Alliance’s fee was $262.
After the Bar received a handful of complaints, Hill said, he consulted with Pat Gleason, general counsel of the Florida attorney general’s office, on the issue.
But Gleason disputes Hill’s view. She said attorney names and addresses are indeed public record, but nowhere in Florida’s public records law does it state that the Bar is required to sell mailing lists and prepare labels.