Florida Supreme Court Justices Recognized Communications Director Craig Waters for Service to the Judicial Branch
Florida Supreme Court justices on Wednesday, February 9, recognized Communications Director Craig Waters for his service to the judicial branch and for his advocacy and innovation on behalf of openness and transparency for the state’s courts. Justices, court staff, family, and friends gathered in the library to honor Waters’ 35-year career.
Chief Justice Charles Canady presented Waters with a proclamation detailing his contributions, including creating the Court’s first website, posting high-profile case information online, spearheading live oral argument broadcasts, hosting an annual Reporters’ Workshop, and using social media as a communications tool to better inform the media and public about the work of the judicial branch. (Watch the recognition on YouTube)
“The Court gave me more than ample room to innovate with the communications technology that started emerging in the early 1990s,” Waters said, addressing members of the Court at the conclusion of oral arguments Wednesday morning. The Court’s leadership “let me make openness and transparency the twin themes of my career here. I know how lucky I was to receive such an indulgence from the state’s highest Court. It has been the highest honor of my life to do what I have done these past 35 years. It still is today. It always will be.”
Waters’ Supreme Court career began in 1987 as a staff attorney for Justice Rosemary Barkett. His background in journalism and the law along with his interest in technology positioned him well to become the Court’s first public information officer in 1996. Throughout Waters’ career, he pioneered openness and transparency in Florida’s courts.
Also at the event, First Amendment Foundation board member Bob Shaw presented Waters with its 2022 Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award, the second time Waters has been so honored. The Foundation recognized Craig for his groundbreaking use of the internet and video technology.
Shaw recounted accepting an invitation from Waters soon after he began as public information officer, seeking input on how the Court might become more accessible.
“Our ‘big idea’ was to urge Craig to start posting the court’s decisions and docket on what was then the still-new internet,” Shaw said to the gathering in the Supreme Court Library. “Putting them out there, we argued, would mean that any interested member of the public – not just reporters and Tallahassee-based attorneys — could read a decision the day it came out. We were amazed when – not long afterwards – the court in fact began posting its decisions on the web.”
Waters said he considered his most lasting and meaningful contribution to be the 2007 creation of the Florida Court Public Information Officers (FCPIO). The group educates and supports members in jurisdictions throughout the state in fulfillment of the Supreme Court-approved communications plan. Its central purpose is to promote public trust and confidence in the judiciary through openness and transparency of it is work.
The FCPIO board and members honored Craig by renaming the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award after him. In the future, the recipient of the Robert Craig Waters Lifetime Achievement Award will exemplify Craig’s work by improving court communications in innovative ways so that the public and media have a firm grasp of the vital work of the judicial branch.
“You’ve had a remarkable career, Craig. You have made an enormous contribution to the work of our court,” Chief Justice Canady said. “When I was thinking about the kind of things that sum you up I think one it is an absolute commitment to the cause of justice and to the work of our court and an absolute commitment to serve the public and the best way they can be served. … You have moved our court really to the forefront of making information of the court accessible to the public. Without your leadership we would not be where we are.”