A second-circuit Florida judge refused to stop Wednesday’s first ever meeting of the Florida state cabinet at the US Embassy in Jerusalem, according to media reports.
The Florida based NGO – the First Amendment Foundation – and four media companies filed a suit to block the meeting, claiming it violated the constitutional rights of Florida residents.
The Wednesday afternoon meeting will mark the first time a US state cabinet has held a formal governmental meeting at the US embassy in Jerusalem, which opened last year, after its controversial relocation from Tel Aviv.
Earlier this year, the Florida cabinet also made history when it became the first state cabinet in the US to issue a proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital.
Four media companies signed onto the lawsuit including: Times Publishing Company, Gannett Co., Inc. The Miami Herald Media Company and GateHouse Media, LLC.
The meeting will take place during Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s 90-person trade mission to Israel, which has already included the first ever trip to a West Bank settlement by a US governor.
Florida is Israel’s 13th largest trading partner and the trip is designed to deepen those economic ties.
Second Circuit Judge Angela Dempsy on Tuesday said there is no action the courts can take because the governor and the cabinet members were out of the country and could not be served with a summons, according to a report in The Florida Phoenix.
In its legal suit, the First Amendment Foundation claimed that a meeting held 6,000 miles away from the state capital in Tallahassee violated the opening meetings provision of the Florida Constitution and the Sunshine Law. Due to embassy regulations, the public is prohibited from attending the meeting and media access is limited.
In addition, Florida citizens without valid passports cannot attend the meeting and citizens of Palestinian, Arab and or Muslim descent would have travel and access issues, the plaintiffs stated.
“Holding a meeting at this distance in such a facility violates the constitutional and statutory rights Florida citizens [and the news media] to personally observe the workings of, and for the public to offer comment to, their state’s highest officials,” the plaintiffs said in their petition.
According to the meeting’s agenda, cabinet members will entertain a resolution regarding ties between Israel and Florida and consider presentations on terror victims, emergency management and water quality. This will also include cyber security.
According to the plaintiff’s petition, the governor's spokeswoman Helen Ferre said the meeting was an informal gathering to learn about the best Israeli practices.
The plaintiffs disputed this statement, arguing that the topics on the cabinet’s agenda were of direct importance to the citizens of Florida.
It is expected that further legal action will be taken against DeSantis and the cabinet members as a result of the embassy meeting.