|Craig Waters briefs worldwide media, December 2000,
in Bush v. Gore
|Spokesman for the
Florida Supreme Court
June 1, 1996 – Present
|Political party||No Party Affiliation|
Craig Waters (born 1956) has been the public information officer of the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee since June 1, 1996. He is best known as the public spokesman for the Court during the 2000 presidential election controversy, when he frequently appeared on worldwide newscasts announcing decisions of the Florida Supreme Court. These decisions are known to history as Bush v. Gore.
Portrayal in film
Waters is portrayed in the HBO Movie Recount by the actor Alex Staggs. The film, which had a broadcast premiere of May 25, 2008, chronicled the events in Florida during the presidential election lawsuits and appeals. Staggs reenacts two scenes in which Waters announced the result of Florida Supreme Court decisions to a global television audience.
The first occurred on November 21, 2000, when Waters' announced a court decision extending the vote-counting deadline previously set by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. The second was on December 8, 2000, when Waters announced a decision requiring a statewide recount of certain ballots. The United States Supreme Court overruled this last decision on December 12, 2000.
Waters later told a Tallahassee newspaper reporter: "My role as Court spokesman back then is something great to have in your past, once it proves to be a success. But I can tell you that the success was by no means guaranteed at the time. I came to work every day for more than a month in the fall of 2000 knowing there were a thousand ways to fail and millions of people watching."
Election 2000 in reality and in film
Writings and scholarship
A prolific writer and scholar, Waters' works include "Waters' Dictionary of Florida Law" published by London-based Butterworths, a three-volume treatise "AIDS and Florida Law" also published by Butterworths,and several dozen scholarly articles on various subjects generally related to civil rights, AIDS and disability law, court emergency preparedness,and the use of technology to improve court and media relations. He is coauthor of the only comprehensive scholarly article on Florida Supreme Court protocol and jurisdiction.
In the fall of 2008, Waters published a detailed article in the Journal of Appellate Practice & Process on the groundbreaking techniques he used in coordinating media relations at the Florida Supreme Court during the 2000 election cases. The article is titled "Technological Transparency: Appellate Court & Media Relations after Bush v. Gore."
Work in court and media relations
In 1997, Waters spearheaded a project that put all Florida Supreme Court arguments on live television, cable, satellite, and web broadcasts. He also was responsible for a pioneering effort to place all documents in high profile court cases on the Web for instant public access, which has been widely praised in the media. The media also credited Waters' work in 2000 with putting pressure on federal courts to provide the public greater technological access to their proceedings.
Prior to attending law school, Waters was a reporter in the Tallahassee capital press corps, covering state government and the state Supreme Court he eventually would work for. His experience as a statehouse journalist greatly influenced his approach to court and media relations. Prior to Waters becoming the court public information officer in 1996, the Florida Supreme Court routinely avoided contact with media.
Waters brought an end to that approach, first by putting large amounts of public information on the Florida Supreme Court website he maintained starting in 1995. In September 1997 in cooperation with Florida State University, Waters launched the first comprehensive program to broadcast all court arguments live on television, via satellite, on cable systems, and in webcasts. That program, now called "Gavel to Gavel" remains in place today.
Earlier legal work
Before becoming the Florida Supreme Court's first public information officer in 1996, Waters served for nine years as a staff attorney. He worked in this capacity for nearly three years with Florida's first woman Justice, Rosemary Barkett from West Palm Beach. The remaining time was spent advising Justice Gerald Kogan from Miami until, upon becoming Chief Justice in 1996, Kogan moved Waters permanently into court administration and his current job.
Before law school, Waters worked for four years as a reporter with the Florida Gannett newspapers, from 1979 to 1983. He won a number of awards, including ones for work exposing racist campaign practices in Pensacola city elections, for articles dealing with the then-novel concept of chronic spouse abuse syndrome as a defense to criminal charges, and for a series of articles at the height of the Reagan arms build-up about Florida's profound failures in emergency preparedness in the early 1980s.
Speeches and educational lectures
Waters has given many speeches on subjects he has studied, including a recent speech on web accessibility for persons with disabilities at the 10th international Court Technology Conference organized in 2007 by the National Center for State Courts. He is coauthor of a professional paper describing how state and federal disability laws will require rethinking current practices in creating and maintaining court websites.
He previously spoke on the technology of disasters, dealing with court emergency preparedness following the September 11, 2001, terrorists attacks and the extensive hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005. Since 2000, Waters has given dozens of speeches nationwide on the media relations techniques he pioneered in the 1990s and how they were especially useful during the Bush v. Gore presidential election appeals, when he employed cutting edge technology to give people real-time access to documents and broadcasts on a worldwide basis.
He is founding president of the Florida Court Public Information Officers, Inc., a federally recognized tax exempt organization. He is heavily involved in activities of the Florida Bar, including serving on the editorial board of the Florida Bar Journal and the Florida Bar News. He also serves on the Florida Bar Media & Communications Law Committee and has chaired and hosted many of its ongoing programs of outreach to media. These include the annual Florida Bar Reporters Workshop held each fall at the Florida Supreme Court Building and the Media Law Conference held each spring.
Waters attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island as an undergraduate, receiving his degree with honors in 1979. He received his Juris Doctor with honors from the University of Florida College of Law (now the Levin College of Law) in 1986 after working for four years as a journalist with the Gannett newspapers in Pensacola and Tallahassee. In law school, he served as a management editor of the Florida Law Review. Before college, Waters attended public schools in Pensacola, graduating from J. M. Tate High School. A native of Pensacola, Florida, he has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1987 and currently also is communications counsel to the Florida Supreme Court.