Florida Supreme Court Archives - Page 4 of 57 - Florida Politics

High court hears argument on dog racing ban

The Florida Supreme Court will now consider whether general election voters will get to see a constitutional amendment ending live greyhound racing.

Lawyers for the state and the Florida Greyhound Association gave argument Wednesday before the state’s seven justices. As usual, the court offered no clue when it might rule.

The association challenged the amendment, saying its ballot title and summary would mislead voters. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers already has agreed in a harshly-worded ruling, striking the measure earlier this month and calling it “outright ‘trickeration.’ ”

She said Amendment 13’s title and summary were “clearly and conclusively defective,” a legal standard developed by the Supreme Court to justify keeping proposed amendments off the ballot.

Deputy Solicitor General Jordan Pratt, who works for Attorney General Pam Bondi, defended the amendment. He told the court all the title and summary have to do is “make clear the chief legal effect of the amendment,” which they do. 

When Justice Peggy Quince suggested some voters may be interested in getting rid of dog racing but not in saying animal welfare is a “fundamental value,” Pratt said a title and summary don’t have to allude to the policy behind an amendment.

Major B. Harding, a retired Supreme Court justice who represents the Greyhound Association, had previously argued the title and summary don’t disclose that “humane treatment of animals would become a fundamental value of the people of Florida.”

But the court’s previous rulings suggest voters should be prompted not on the ‘why,’ but rather on the ‘what’ of an amendment, Pratt said. 

Harding

Harding later told the justices a vote for Amendment 13 would “constitutionally disconnect” dog racing from other gaming; slot machines in South Florida are provided for in another amendment. 

He said the language also doesn’t make clear to voters that the amendment’s passage would create “freestanding casinos” because other gambling activities would not be affected.

“Why would you include such a significant statement … and not disclose it?” Harding said. “It’s misleading and it’s inappropriate.”

Pratt, in rebuttal, suggested that dog tracks now offering card games or slots already are casinos, and taking away dog racing means just one less ‘game’ to bet on. 

The racing ban is one of eight amendments OK’d by the Constitution Revision Commission; 13 amendments in all have been set for the ballot. Amendment 13 was the first to be struck down, followed by two more this month. All amendments must get at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

Supreme Court sets arguments in Amendment 6 appeal

The Florida Supreme Court took jurisdiction Tuesday over a challenge to the Constitution Revision Commission’s victims’ right proposal known as Amendment 6 and set oral argument for Sept. 5.

The move came a day after a Tallahassee judge ordered the amendment off the November ballot because it “does not meet ‘truth in packaging’ requirements for submission to the voters.”

The high court consolidated two separate challenges to the proposed revision, bypassing the 1st District Court of Appeal. That court had certified the matter as a “question of great public importance requiring immediate resolution by this court,” the Supreme Court said in its order.

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, presiding in a bench trial in Leon County’s Circuit Civil court on Friday, had acknowledged the Supreme Court would have the final word.

The court gave attorneys from the Office of the Attorney General and Marsy’s Law for Florida, a victims’ rights group, until Thursday to file written arguments. Attorneys for two private citizens challenging the measure have until Friday. The defenders then will have until Monday to file final briefs.

The Supreme Court said it would hear oral arguments in the 4th District Court of Appeal’s courthouse in West Palm Beach. Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters said that’s because the justices had committed to the “annual educational conference for appellate judges and clerks” next week that’s held in that area.

Amendment 6 would ensure victims’ rights to attend and participate in certain criminal proceedings; it would also raise judges’ retirement age from 70 to 75, and limit the deference judges must extend to administrative agencies in interpreting laws.

Among other things, Gievers found the measure’s ballot title and summary would not make clear to voters that the constitutional change would eliminate some rights for criminal defendants.

“Neither the title nor summary mentions that the victims’ rights … were qualified and subject to the constitutional rights of the accused,” she wrote, or that it would include delinquency proceedings.

The measure “does not tell voters that years of settled law and provisions that comprise the criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system will be significantly changed,” Gievers added in her order.

Supreme Court passes on ‘bundling’ challenge to constitutional amendments

The state’s highest court has punted a challenge that six proposed constitutional amendments were wrongfully “bundled.”

Without explanation, the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously kicked the case to the 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, with a proviso that the trial judge assigned the case “should not interpret the transfer of this case as an indication that it must or should reach the merits of the petition.”

Retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead filed a challenge to the amendments earlier this month. He said six amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) were “logrolled.” That is, they could force people to vote for an amendment because they’re in favor of one policy in it, but not others.

He called it “a form of issue gerrymandering that violates the First Amendment right of the voter to vote for or against specific, independent and unrelated proposals to amend the constitution without paying the price of supporting a measure the voter opposes or opposing a measure the voter supports.”

In her own filing, Attorney General Pam Bondi countered that there’s no such thing as improper bundling of issues when it comes to CRC amendments: “The single-subject requirement applies to amendments proposed by citizen’s initiative, and only to such amendments.”

In other words, “the single-subject limitation exists because the citizen initiative process does not afford the same opportunity for public hearing and debate that accompanies the other constitutional proposal and drafting processes (i.e., constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislature, by a constitutional revision commission, or by a constitutional convention).”

Anstead, a Gov. Lawton Chiles appointee who served on the Court 1994-2009, seeks a writ of ‘quo warranto.‘ That’s a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action — in this case, against Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s chief election officer.

The measures at issue include amendments that already have been ordered off the ballot by circuit judges: Amendment 8, a contentious education-related amendment; and Amendment 6, which would create a crime victims’ bill of rights and raise judicial retirement ages.

Anstead also is going after Amendment 7, which would extend survivor benefits to first responders and military; Amendment 9, which bans both offshore oil drilling and indoor ‘vaping,’ Amendment 10, which would overhaul state and local governments by requiring certain offices now appointed to be elected; and Amendment 11, which deals with property rights and criminal laws.

Yet another amendment aimed at ending live greyhound racing in Florida, Amendment 13, also has been ordered off the ballot in a separate challenge; that case is under appeal at the Florida Supreme Court. Oral arguments are set for Wednesday morning.

Anstead filed his petition with Robert Barnas, a former High Springs City Commissioner and former state Elections Commissioner. They’re represented by Joseph Little, a constitutional scholar and retired professor of the University of Florida’s law school.

Judge strikes victims’ rights amendment — Marsy’s Law — from ballot

A Tallahassee judge on Monday ordered the Constitution Revision Commission’s proposed Amendment 6, which would guarantee crime victims’ rights and raise judges’ retirement age, stripped from the November ballot.

“Because the title and summary do not meet the requirements of Florida laws … in fully, fairly, and accurately telling the voters the chief purpose of the proposed amendment, and because the title and summary are, in addition, misleading, the CRC’s proposal … does not meet ‘truth in packaging’ requirements for submission to the voters and must be removed from the ballot,” Circuit Judge Karen Gievers wrote.

This makes the second amendment that Gievers has ruled against: She already struck down a measure aimed at ending live greyhound racing in the state. That decision is now being appealed at the state Supreme Court, as this latest ruling will no doubt be.

During a bench trial last week, Gievers had warned litigants she would hold the CRC to a high standard for straightforwardness in ruling in two separate challenges to the proposed revision.

In her ruling, the judge conceded that “courts should use extreme care, caution, and restraint before removing a proposal from the voters’ consideration.” They should do so, she continued, only when the laws have been “clearly and conclusively violated.”

In this case, “the problem lies not in what is said but what was not said,” Gievers wrote. “Here, the CRC has not mentioned crucial language in the title and summary.”

Specifically, it does not make clear that the revision would eliminate some rights for criminal defendants. “Neither the title nor summary mentions that the victims’ rights … were qualified and subject to the constitutional rights of the accused,” she wrote, or that it would include delinquency proceedings.

The measure “does not tell voters that years of settled law and provisions that comprise the criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system will be significantly changed,” Gievers wrote.

In addition, the amendment would raise judges’ retirement age from 70 to 75, and limit the deference courts give to government agencies’ interpretations of laws and regulations.

Defending the law last week were Greenberg Traurig legal legend Barry Richard, representing Marsy’s Law for Florida, a victims’ rights group, and Karen Borden of the Office of the Attorney General. Richard had no immediate comment Monday evening.

Mark Herron, one of the attorneys challenging the proposal, had no comment: “I will let it speak for itself,” he said via email.

Pro-Amendment 8 committee adds $100K as Florida Supreme Court considers its fate

The political committee backing a contentious education amendment raised another $100,000 as the Florida Supreme Court prepares to consider whether it should be on the November ballot.

8isGreat.org brought in the new cash via a single check Philadelphia real estate investor Howard Rich, who has a proclivity for funding term limits and pro-charter school initiatives. Spending for the committee came in at $17,450, with $15,400 of that heading to Vero Beach-based MVP Strategy and Policy for campaign consulting work.

The six-figure haul comes after the committee raised just $8 and spent only 53 cents for the three reporting periods spanning July 21 through Aug. 10. It has now raised a total of $292,040  since forming in May with $238,665 in the bank on Aug. 23.

8isGreat.org is chaired by Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds, who sponsored the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) proposals that became Amendment 8.

The bundled issues in the proposed constitutional amendment include eight-year term limits for county school board members, requiring “civic literacy” to be promoted in public schools, and stripping school boards of the sole authority to authorize charter schools within their jurisdiction.

On Monday, Leon County Judge John Cooper issued an order striking the amendment from the ballot as a result of legal challenge from the League of Women Voters. Cooper’s ruling cited the lack of the term “charter schools” in the ballot description, which instead describes them as schools “not established by the school board.”

“The failure to use the term voters would understand, ‘charter schools,’ as well as the use of a phrase that has no established meaning under Florida law, fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of this proposal,” the ruling said.

Three days after his ruling, the issue had made it to the 1st District Court of Appeal, which punted it over to the Florida Supreme Court, which in turn unanimously agreed to hear the legal arguments on whether Amendment 8 should be on the ballot.

If placed back on the ballot, Amendment 8 would need 60 percent support from voters to pass.

Justices will weigh Amendment 8 case

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously agreed to take up a legal battle about whether a proposed education constitutional amendment should be on the November ballot.

Justices issued an order accepting the case only two days after Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled that the proposed amendment should not go before voters because of misleading wording.

The state quickly appealed Cooper’s ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal, which then passed it to the Supreme Court.

A panel of the appeals court said Wednesday it “certifies that this appeal involves a question of great public importance and requires immediate resolution by the Supreme Court of Florida.”

Cooper ruled that the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment would not adequately inform voters of its potential impact on the creation of charter schools.

The proposed amendment, placed on the ballot by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, would impose eight-year term limits on school board members and would require the promotion of “civic literacy” in public schools.

But a provision that drew a legal challenge from the League of Women Voters of Florida would allow the state to operate and control public schools “not established by the school board,” wording that opponents said would lead to the expansion of charter schools.

“The failure to use the term voters would understand, ‘charter schools,’ as well as the use of a phrase that has no established meaning under Florida law, fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of this proposal,” Cooper wrote.

With general-election ballots starting to be mailed to voters in September, the Supreme Court indicated it likely will move quickly in the case. It ordered the state to file a brief by noon Monday.

Pam Bondi says certain constitutional amendments can be ‘bundled’

There’s no such thing as improper ‘bundling’ of issues when it comes to amendments proposed by the state’s Constitution Revision Commission, Attorney General Pam Bondi argued in a new filing on Monday.

Bondi responded to a challenge filed last week at the Florida Supreme Court by one of its retired justices, Harry Lee Anstead. He said six CRC amendments were wrongly “logrolled;” that is, they could force people to vote for an amendment because they’re in favor of one policy in it, but not others.

That’s “a form of issue gerrymandering that violates the First Amendment right of the voter to vote for or against specific, independent and unrelated proposals to amend the constitution without paying the price of supporting a measure the voter opposes or opposing a measure the voter supports,” he said.

No, Bondi countered, saying that a “filtering” process protects the CRC’s work product from logrolling challenges.

“The single-subject requirement applies to amendments proposed by citizen’s initiative, and only to such amendments,” she argued.

“In other words, the single-subject limitation exists because the citizen initiative process does not afford the same opportunity for public hearing and debate that accompanies the other constitutional proposal and drafting processes (i.e., constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislature, by a constitutional revision commission, or by a constitutional convention).”

Anstead, who served on the Supreme Court 1994-2009, seeks a writ of ‘quo warranto,’ a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action — in this case, against Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s chief election officer.

The measures at issue include Amendment 8, a contentious education-related amendment that a Tallahassee judge ordered off the ballot earlier Monday in an unrelated case.

Others are Amendment 6, which would create a crime victims’ bill of rights; Amendment 7, which would extend survivor benefits to first responders and military; Amendment 9, which bans both offshore oil drilling and indoor ‘vaping,’ Amendment 10, which would overhaul state and local governments by requiring certain offices now appointed to be elected; and Amendment 11, which deals with property rights and criminal laws.

Still another amendment aimed at ending live dog racing in Florida, Amendment 13, also has been ordered off the ballot in a separate challenge; that case is also under appeal at the Florida Supreme Court.

Bondi, who is representing Detzner, had until 5 p.m. Monday to file a response; the filing was clocked in at 4:59.

Anstead, an appointee of the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles and chief justice in 2002-04, filed the petition with Robert Barnas, a former High Springs City Commissioner and former state Elections Commissioner. They’re represented by Joseph Little, a constitutional scholar and retired professor of the University of Florida’s law school.

Bondi’s 41-page filing is below.

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Defendant tries to sway justices on ‘Stand Your Ground’ change

Pointing in part to statements made by lawmakers, attorneys for a woman arrested in a shooting outside a Miami nightclub filed a 40-page brief late Wednesday at the Florida Supreme Court arguing that a 2017 change in the ‘Stand Your Ground‘ self-defense law should apply to her case.

An eventual decision by the Supreme Court in the case of Tashara Love could clear up divisions in lower courts about whether the 2017 change should apply retroactively to defendants whose cases were pending at the time the legislation took effect.

The 2017 legislation shifted a key burden of proof in ‘Stand Your Ground’ cases from defendants to prosecutors, a move that could help defendants in at least some cases.

Love was arrested in the 2015 shooting of man who had punched her daughter outside a nightclub, according to the brief filed Wednesday by her attorneys. Love argued that she should be shielded from prosecution because of the “stand your ground” law, which says people are justified in using deadly force and do not have a “duty to retreat” if they believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.

After a pre-trial hearing, however, a judge rejected the defense.

Love appealed, arguing that the 2017 burden-of-proof shift should be applied retroactively to her case, but the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled against her. That prompted Love’s attorneys to go to the Supreme Court. In the brief, her attorneys cited lawmakers who supported the 2017 change and said it carried out the original intent of the “stand your ground” law, which passed in 2005.

“Representative Bobby Payne informed the members of that chamber that the amendment would ‘put[] the burden back where it was intended by the 2005 law,’ a theme echoed by Representative Paul Renner, who argued that the bill would ‘clarify and give real meaning to the purpose of that law from 2005,’ ” said the brief, referring to Payne, a Palatka Republican, and Renner, a Palm Coast Republican.

The brief also said the change was “procedural” and, as a result, should be applied to older cases.

“As a procedural enactment designed to restore the Legislature’s original intent, the amended Stand Your Ground law properly applies to all pending cases, regardless the date of the conduct giving rise to the dispute,” the brief said.

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up the case but has not scheduled oral arguments.

Justices agree to decide ballot fight on county offices

The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously agreed to take up a challenge to a proposed ballot measure that has drawn opposition from some counties.

Justices issued an order accepting the case, though they put off a decision about whether they will hold oral arguments. The order came a day after the 1st District Court of Appeal quickly sent the case to the Supreme Court. The appeals court pointed to a “question of great public importance” that it said needs “immediate resolution by the Supreme Court of Florida.”

The case stems from a proposed constitutional amendment that the state Constitution Revision Commission placed on the Nov. 6 ballot. The measure, known as Amendment 10, would make the five local constitutional offices — sheriff, tax collector, supervisor of elections, clerk of the court and property appraiser — mandatory and require elections for the offices in all 67 counties. It would also prohibit charter counties from abolishing or modifying those offices.

Charter counties have opposed the amendment, arguing that local voters through the charter process should have the power to decide how constitutional offices are structured and whether they should be elected positions.

Challenges filed in Leon County circuit court argued that the ballot language and summary were misleading and that, as a result, the proposal should not go to voters.

But Circuit Judge James Shelfer last week rejected those arguments, prompting Volusia, Miami-Dade and Broward counties to file notices of appeal Friday at the 1st District Court of Appeal, according to online dockets.

The appeals court, instead of following the usual process of considering the issue, essentially forwarded it to the Supreme Court.

Ballots for the November election will begin to be sent out to voters next month.

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