- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Supreme Court is refusing for now to consider a legal challenge to a year-old state law that allows elected officials to place their assets in a blind trust instead of reporting each investment publicly.

Justices unanimously decided Wednesday to transfer the lawsuit to a lower court.

The one-page ruling made it clear, however, that the Supreme Court could still consider the issue later. The ruling stated that the transfer “should not be construed as an adjudication or comment on the merits of the petition.”

The high court’s action means it is highly unlikely the legal challenge will be resolved anytime soon, however.

A former top aide to the late Gov. Reubin Askew had filed an emergency petition earlier this month asking the Supreme Court to strike down the law and to block any candidates from qualifying for the ballot unless they file a full disclosure of all their finances. Financial disclosures are usually submitted during June qualifying.

The lawsuit contends that politicians who use a blind trust are violating the “Sunshine Amendment” that was adopted by the state’s voters in 1976. The amendment marked the first time Florida officials were required to disclose their finances.

Jim Apthorp, who was Askew’s chief of staff, said in a statement that he remained confident those backing the lawsuit will “prevail when this case is tried.” He said they would urge the circuit court in Tallahassee to expedite the case. Several news organizations, including The Associated Press, filed a legal brief in support of the lawsuit.

Gov. Rick Scott is the only state official who has chosen to place his finances in a blind trust in an effort to avoid potential conflicts. Scott’s re-election campaign has said he will comply with whatever the court decides.

A new ethics law passed last year by the Florida Legislature authorizes blind trusts, but says that public officials who set them up must disclose the initial assets placed in the account. Scott last summer disclosed what assets were included in the account as of 2011, but declined to reveal any information about more recent holdings.

Top legislative leaders who had pushed the state’s new ethics law questioned the timing of the lawsuit and said it appeared to be a “political ploy designed and timed to affect the outcome of this year’s elections.”