Florida Supreme Court Archives - Page 7 of 47 - Florida Politics

Florida may pay millions to homeowners for lost citrus trees

Florida may end a long-running battle and pay millions to homeowners whose healthy citrus trees were torn down in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker.

The Florida House has $66 million in its proposed budget to pay lawsuits filed on behalf of homeowners in Broward, Lee and Palm Beach counties. There are also lawsuits ongoing in Orange and Miami-Dade counties.

Rep. Carlos Trujillo, the House budget chairman, said the payments should be made because courts have already ruled against the state in those counties.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the state should wait until the lawsuits reach the Florida Supreme Court.

So far Senate Republicans have not included the payments in their budget.

Canker damages citrus trees. From 2000 to 2006, the state removed citrus trees within 1,900 feet of an infected tree.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Supreme Court tweaks its ‘senior justice’ rule after controversy

The Florida Supreme Court no longer will allow its justices to keep working indefinitely on open cases after they leave the bench, according to a new rule released Thursday.

After Justice James E.C. Perry officially retired on Dec. 30, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga allowed him to finish work on opinions as a “senior justice,” following decades of court practice.

But critics, including Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran, cried foul. They complained Perry was displacing his successor, C. Alan Lawson, who started work the next day on Dec. 31. Perry worked for an additional month after that.

Lawson—GOP Gov. Rick Scott‘s first Supreme Court pick—is a conservative; Perry most often voted with the court’s left-leaning contingent.

Corcoran even prepared a legal challenge to Perry’s continued work, saying among other things that Perry was an unconstitutional “eighth” justice on the seven-member court.

Now, the new Rule of Judicial Administration says, “(N)o retired justice … or other judge who is qualified to serve may be assigned to the supreme court, or continue in such assignment, after 7 (seven) sitting duly sworn justices are available and able to perform the duties of office.”

In defending his decision, Labarga had said the court’s protocol, “as long as I can remember,” has been to grant retired justices senior status to finish work they started; that is, to work on opinions in cases in which they participated in oral argument.

“Appellate work is not like trial work,” Labarga said in February. “If I leave the bench today and a new judge comes in, that judge can’t just start that morning. The records are huge. It takes time to read” all the material.

“This way, when you’re almost out of the woods, almost done with an opinion, you can get it done.”

In a Thursday media availability, Corcoran called it “a great rule change … and my hat’s off to Chief Justice Labarga.”

“They took it upon themselves to come up with a rule, it looks like it was supported by all the justices, and despite that people want to say, ‘there’s tension here, there’s tension there,’ I’ve said it a thousand times that I consider Chief Justice Labarga a friend,” he added. “I think they all want to do … what is best for the judicial system.”

Senate bill to increase Supreme Court reporting requirements clears second committee

A bill that would increase reporting requirements for Florida Supreme Court cases cleared the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee with a unanimous vote Wednesday.

SB 878, sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom Lee, would require the court to write up an annual report on cases that the court did not issue a ruling on within 180 days of oral arguments.

“To the extent, the court is having challenges prosecuting its work, I’d like to try to find a way to help them,” Lee said.

Court rules put the 180-day benchmark on issuing a ruling, though there are instances when the Supreme Court is not able to beat the deadline.

Though he didn’t vote against the bill, Lake Worth Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens said he was concerned that the law would interfere with the way the Supreme Court operates.

“To me, it’s potentially stepping over a line between the three branches of government for us to be looking at how the Supreme Court implements its own rule,” Clemens said.

The bill now moves on to the full Senate Appropriations Committee and must also pass the Rules Committee before it is ready for a vote on the Senate floor. Previously, the bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee with a unanimous vote.

The House version of the bill, HB 301, cleared all of its committee stops before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session and was approved by the full chamber with a 78-37 vote March 10.

Legislation advanced making knowingly spreading HIV through sex without partner’s knowledge a capital crime

Roughly 34 years after the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS, Florida’s lawmakers are considering legislation whose maximum sentence would be death to knowingly spread the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, to a sexual partner without their knowledge, according to a committee that voted favorably Monday in regard to the measure.

The bill, HB 165, sponsored by Florida Rep. Kionne McGhee, would expand a current law already on the books in the Sunshine State making it a crime to consciously spread sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).

McGhee’s legislation looks to amend the law by adding HIV to a list of STDs, which include gonorrhea, genital herpes simplex, chlamydia, human papillomavirus hepatitis and syphilis, among others. Anyone caught knowingly spreading those communicable diseases can be punished in a court of law and face jail time, but may only be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor crime if they didn’t know it.

The amendment could make it a first-degree felony, punishable by death, if a person knowingly spreads the disease more than once to multiple people.

The move was sparked by a 2011 case in Key West, Florida, that forced Florida lawmakers to redefine the definition of sex. The Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling in connection to the case just last week.

Gary Debaun, 65, allegedly risked his partner with the virus that causes AIDS and a legal definition of sexual intercourse can’t get him out of the charge, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a six-page decision based solely on whether intercourse is defined as only sex between a man and a woman.

“The term ‘sexual intercourse’ is commonly understood to broadly refer to several sex acts — including the sexual act at issue here,” said the court ruling. “In certain contexts, the term refers to specifically — that is, more narrowly, to penile-vaginal intercourse.”

Florida Supreme Court rules sex is sex, no matter who’s doing it

A law that requires someone with HIV to notify a potential sex partner beforehand applies to same-sex relationships as well as between a man and a woman, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously decided Thursday.

The defendant, Gary Debaun, has been trying to have a charge dismissed under a 1986 state law designed to prevent the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus.

Debaun is HIV-positive, according to records.

The case, argued last February, involved the definition of “sexual intercourse.” In 2011, Debaun, a man, lied to a male sex partner that he was HIV-negative, “forg(ing) his doctor’s signature on the lab report,” the opinion said. It did not state whether the other man acquired the virus from having sex with Debaun.

Lawyers for Debaun had argued the law says it’s illegal not to disclose an HIV infection before “sexual intercourse,” but that definition only appeals to traditional sex between a man and a woman—not two men.

The law itself does not define sex, and two different appellate courts had disagreed over the definition.

Justice Charles Canady, who wrote the decision, said: “We first consider the plain and ordinary meaning of the term ‘sexual intercourse’ and conclude that it is not limited to only penile-vaginal intercourse.”

He then notes that “HIV can be spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex, but anal sex presents the greatest risk of transmitting the infection,” and “gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men … are the population most severely affected by HIV.”

Including forms of sex other than penile-vaginal in the definition of intercourse is “a reasonable result, which gives full effect to the Legislature’s intent to reduce the incidence of HIV,” Canady wrote.

“As used in a statute directed at curtailing the spread of HIV(, )it would be absurd for the term ‘sexual intercourse’ to apply only to the act of heterosexual penile-vaginal intercourse,” he added.

As of mid-2015, the Florida Department of Health estimated that nearly 110,000 Floridians were living with HIV, and there had been almost 5,900 newly-diagnosed HIV infections in the state in 2014.

Richard Corcoran gets nod for dedication to term limits from U.S. Term Limits

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has been honored for his commitment to term limits.

U.S. Term Limits announced this week that it has presented Corcoran with the Champion of Term Limits Award. The Land O’Lakes Republican was honored for his commitment to term limits and citizen government.

“By supporting term limits, Speaker Corcoran has given a voice to Floridians who feel let down by corruption and careerism in government,” said Philip Blumel, the president of U.S. Term Limits. “People are tired of business as usual and term limits is the only way to change the status quo. We applaud Corcoran for his important work to get this done.”

Corcoran has pushed to impose term limits on Florida’s Supreme Court and appellate judges, which the organization supports. The organization also applauded Corcoran for his support of legislative term limits, which have been in place since 1992.

“Term limits have served as an effective check against unrestrained power in the Legislature,” said Blumel. “It will have a similar impact in bringing more discipline to our judicial system.”

The national organization is based out of Melbourne, Florida. The group aims to fight for term limits at all levels of government.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran making good on transparency, accountability promises

House Speaker Richard Corcoran began his two-year speakership in November by promising a “transformational leap” in government accountability and transparency.

“The Florida House will set the standard for others to emulate,” he declared.

Such pronouncements are often uttered by politicians, especially those who may aspire to higher office. But one week into Florida’s annual legislative session the hard-charging Republican reformer from Land O’Lakes has a lot to show for his audacious accountability talk.

While the final outcome is far from certain, under Corcoran’s leadership the House voted to kill Enterprise Florida, the state’s chief businesses recruitment organization, and restructure Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing corporation, while cutting its funding from $76 million to $25 million annually.

Enterprise Florida’s $350 million Sanford Burnham deal that failed to create 300 jobs over 10 years, and Visit Florida’s $1 million payment to rapper Pitbull for a “Sexy Beaches” tourism promotion are symbols of Corcoran’s “corporate welfare” outrage.

The House passed the tough accountability reforms 87-28, and 80-35, respectively, despite intense pressure from Republican Gov. Rick Scott and economic development and tourism marketing beneficiaries across the state.

Lobbyists are also feeling the pressure. On Friday, the House passed the toughest lobbying ban in the country.

By a vote of 110-3, lawmakers agreed on a 6-year lobbying ban for legislators and statewide elected officials once they leave public office. The measure extends a current two-year “revolving door” restriction, and applies to all state agencies and the government bodies the elected officers formerly served.

Corcoran previously said extending the ban would eliminate the “looking to lobby” mentality that can manifest in an official’s final term. After Friday’s vote, the Speaker tweeted, “Proud that @myflhouse just passed the strongest lobby ban for fmr. legislators in the nation with a bipartisan vote of 110-3.”

All three items are central to Corcoran’s legislative agenda. Whether the state Senate will emulate his efforts remains to be seen.

Meantime, the Speaker’s transparency push continues in the lower chamber.

In a manner befitting Sunshine Week, an annual mid-March open government initiative, Corcoran is imposing additional restrictions on lobbyists with the aim of shedding light on their activities and reducing undue influence.

Before being allowed to lobby House members, lobbyists now are required to file electronic notices of appearance disclosing the specific issues they seek to influence. The disclosure is necessary to eliminate “the mystery of who is lobbying what issue,” according to a House statement.

Lobbyists also are prohibited from influencing House lawmakers via email, text message or other forms of electronic communication when the chamber is voting or when a member is in a committee meeting. It’s a practice that “if widely known to the public would engender justifiable outrage,” the statement says.

Additionally, House members are no longer allowed to travel on private jets owned by lobbyists, enter into business deals or financial relationships with lobbyists, or lobby local governments that they oversee.

Private contracts also must be disclosed if lobbyists are representing public entities or any related institution receiving taxpayer funding. “Taxpayer money being used to lobby the Legislature for more taxpayer money is a vicious cycle.”

Lawmakers and lobbyists would be subject to one or more of the following penalties for violations: public censure and reprimand, civil penalties up to $10,000 or restitution of any pecuniary benefits received in violation of the rules.

Rick Scott signs death penalty fix into law

Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation Monday requiring a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed.

Lawmakers passed the bill out of the House and Senate last week, rushing the measure through the process in hopes of fixing the state’s death penalty law. The House voted 112-3 to approve the measure Friday, one day after the Senate voted unanimously to approve it.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 declared the state’s death penalty was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision. The ruling was based on a case where a judge issued a death sentence after a 7-5 jury recommendation.

In 2016, the Legislature overhauled the state law to let the death penalty be imposed by a 10-2 jury vote. But in October, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2 to strike down the new law and require unanimous jury decisions.

The change goes into effect immediately.

_The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

stacks of files and paperwork

Supreme Court case reporting bill passed by House

A bill requiring the state Supreme Court to produce a yearly report on how many cases it’s finishing with opinions got the thumbs up from the Florida House on Friday.

The legislation (HB 301), which has an identical companion in the Senate, was approved 78-37.

The bill, by Republican state Rep. Frank White of Pensacola, would require the court to tally in detail “each case on the court’s docket … for which a decision or disposition has not been rendered within 180 days.”

The Republican-controlled House has long been antagonized by Supreme Court rulings its leaders have characterized as “judicial overreach.”

White’s bill also requires a “detailed explanation of the court’s failure to render a decision or disposition” in pending cases older than six months. It instructs the court to tally cases it decided in the previous year but took longer than six months.

The report “shall be submitted in an electronic spreadsheet format capable of being sorted” and sent to “the Governor, the Attorney General, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

After the House session, White—an attorney—told reporters he didn’t expect the justices to divulge any private deliberations on cases to explain any delays.

“They can simply say they don’t have a majority on a case, or they’re still deliberating,” he said. “They could also say other factors, such as complexity (of a case). We’re leaving it to their discretion, to a degree.”

When asked if he thought “judges were lazy,” White said he didn’t, but added that “everyone needs deadlines.”

Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters has declined comment on the bill, but in January said the court had 785 pending cases.

“The court disposed of 2,432 cases in calendar year 2016,” he added, adding that number “is subject to correction as we routinely audit the final results.”

Florida tries again to fix death-penalty law

Florida lawmakers are trying for the second year in a row to fix the state’s death penalty law.

The Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to require a unanimous jury decision to impose the death penalty. The House is also prepared for a vote on the issue. It could be the first major bill sent to Gov. Rick Scott this year.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 declared the state’s death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges.

Last year, a bill requiring a 10-2 jury vote was enacted. The state Supreme Court struck it down in October, saying a unanimous decision was needed.

The Republican-dominated Legislature isn’t happy about having to make the fix, but lawmakers say their hands are tied by the court.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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