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Florida migrant records case appealed

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CBS News Miami Live

TALLAHASSEE - An open-government group is appealing a Leon County circuit judge's dismissal of a lawsuit that alleged the Florida Department of Transportation and a contractor did not fully comply with public records requests about controversial state-funded flights of migrants to Massachusetts. 

The Florida Center for Government Accountability this week filed a notice of appeal that is an initial step in asking the 1st District Court of Appeal to overturn the January ruling of Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey. 

The center has contended in the lawsuit that the Department of Transportation and the contractor, Vertol Systems Company, Inc., violated the state's public records law by not fully providing requested documents about the September flights of 49 migrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha's Vineyard. 

The flights, engineered by Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration, have drawn national scrutiny. 

In two rulings, Dempsey concluded that the center did not prove the department and Vertol had withheld documents. 

"The burden is on the plaintiff to prove they made a specific request for public records, that Vertol received the request, the requested public records exist and Vertol refused to provide them in a timely manner," Dempsey wrote in one of the decisions. 

"While the plaintiff meets the first and second prongs of the test, there is no evidence that the public records exist or that Vertol refused to produce public records in a timely manner." 

As is common, the notice of appeal does not detail arguments the non-profit center will make at the Tallahassee-based appeals court.

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