Yesterday was an important day in the just over 3-year life of the FBC Jax Watchdog blog.
My lawyers and I have reached a settlement in the 1 ½ year long lawsuit against the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) detective and Assistant State Attorney involved in issuance of subpoenas on my blog back in October 2008 (for background, click here, here, and here).
The monetary settlement was for $50,000 representing the damages we have incurred from the actions of the JSO officer and Assistant State Attorney in unmasking my identity as the Watchdog blogger through subpoena power, and the ensuing banishment from our church – but much more important than the financial settlement is that the settlement agreement includes a commitment on the part of the city, specifically Sheriff John Rutherford, to make positive changes at the JSO stemming from the circumstances that led to this lawsuit.
In our agreement with the city, the Sheriff has agreed to a meeting with myself, my lawyers, and the city’s legal counsel to discuss important ethical issues that have arisen from this case, and to consider our input on changes that can be made in the JSO’s conflict of interest code for its detectives. Additionally, the Sheriff and the Office of General Counsel have agreed to develop and implement a training program for JSO detectives specifically on constitutional First Amendment issues and legal ramifications that must be considered when issuing investigative subpoenas.
We are extremely pleased with this settlement, and believe that the lawsuit and its settlement will serve the interests of the citizens of Jacksonville through a strengthening of the JSO’s ethical policies and training provided to detectives on constitutional First Amendment issues. We are very grateful to Sheriff Rutherford in agreeing to meet with us personally to address these issues, and think this is an example of excellent governmental leadership on his part.
I will have more to say in the future concerning the case, the litigation and the implications of the case to mega churches, etc. But this will be in the future – for now we will focus on our meeting with Sheriff Rutherford to try to help effect real change at the JSO for the betterment of Jacksonville.