A key Republican political operative will not be required to turn over his communications with other Republican Party operatives relating to redistricting, a court official has ruled.
Frank Terraferma, director of House campaigns of the Republican Party of Florida, will not have to release any more than documents than he already has, ruled Major Harding, the former Supreme Court justice assigned to become the special master in the lingering legal feud over the redistricting maps.
Harding was appointed Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to referee the dispute between the Republican-controlled legislature and the plaintiffs in the case, a coalition of Florida residents and the League of Women Voters.
Plaintiffs argued that Terraferma should be required to turn over internal communications he had with employees under contract with the party to help them assert that the legislature violated the constitutional ban against intentionally protecting an incumbent or political party.
Terraferma argued that if he was required to disclose the documents, it will have a chilling effect on his ability to openly communicate with RPOF and its consultants in the future.
Lewis has ordered other political consultants, including Pat Bainter and his Gainesville-based firm, Data Targeting, turn over several documents but, since they have refused, he has twice held they will not be held in.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs had noted that Harding’s law partner is former House Speaker James Harold Thompson, who signed onto a brief filed in a pending Supreme Court case over whether lawmakers should be shielded from testifying in a related lawsuit.
Harding rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the Terraferma does not have a right to be shielded from what is known as “associative privilege.”
“Here Mr. Terraferma claims the privilege to documents that constitute internal communications with RPOF members, employees, officials, or vendors on matters of political messaging, strategy research, media messaging, party operations and other matters of political c oncerns,’’ he wrote in the special masters report filed with the court Sept. 20. Download Report of Special Master
“He has previously submitted documents (a) submitted to or discussed with any legislator, legislative staff member, or any legislative committee; or (b) submitted to or discussed with any person with the intent that the person would convey it to any legislator, legislative staff member, or any legislative committee submitted to, considered by or passed by the Florida Legislature…
“Mr. Terraferma has already produced all documents, except attorney-client communications, that discuss or relate to the drawing of, or the possible configuration of, redistricting maps for the election of members of the Florida Senate or Florida members of Congress.”