Brevard County Revises Ordinance that Restricted Attendance at Public Meetings and Pays $150,000 to Resolve Attorneys’ Fees in Civil Rights Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.

Following a lawsuit brought by the Florida Justice Institute and
the law firm of DefendBrevard.com alleging violations of the First Amendment and Florida’s
Government in the Sunshine law, Brevard County has made final revisions to an ordinance that
now permits all people to speak at County Commission meetings, regardless of their criminal
record. The lawsuit ended in a settlement, with the County paying damages to the three plaintiffs.
After a settlement conference with a federal magistrate judge, the County also agreed to pay
$150,000 for the Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees, bringing a formal end to the legal dispute.

“We’re happy that the Brevard County government is now truly open to everyone,” said lead
plaintiffs’ lawyer Ray Taseff of the Florida Justice Institute. “Cities and counties should take note
that they cannot restrict who attends their public meetings.”

The lawsuit was precipitated by a Brevard County ordinance which prohibits people on the sex
offender registry from being within 1000 feet of a school, day care, or park. Because the Brevard
County Government Center is within 1000 feet of a school—and the ordinance had no exceptions
for attending public meetings—sex offenders were prohibited from attending County Commission
meetings—even as the Commission expanded the reach of the ordinance that affected their lives.

Three Plaintiffs sued, and the County later amended the ordinance to create an exception for
attending a public government meeting. On May 17, 2022, the Plaintiffs attended their first
Brevard County Commission meeting in years. In their historic appearance, the three men spoke
during the public comment portion, informing the Commissioners on how the remainder of the
ordinance affects their lives. For example, the onerous restrictions limit their ability to take loved
ones to the hospital or attend events with their grandchildren. They also live in fear of arrest
because there is no map indicating where they are not permitted to go in the County.

“It is important that every single citizen be able to address their elected officials, regardless of who
they are or what their background may be. I’m proud we were able to achieve this for the citizens
of Brevard County, Florida,” said attorney Jessica J. Travis of the law firm of DefendBrevard.com.

The case is Rinaldi et al. v. Brevard County, Case No. 22-CV-00023 in the Middle District of
Florida, and was handled by Ray Taseff and Dante Trevisani of the nonprofit Florida Justice
Institute, and Jessica Travis of DefendBrevard.com For more information, contact Ray Taseff,
rtaseff@floridajusticeinstitute.org, 305-586-4502.

Press Release - Rinaldi v. Brevard County Commission