Pam bondi Archives - Florida Politics

Prosecutor blocked from ‘Stand Your Ground’ case

Siding with Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday rejected an attempt by Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to get involved in a case about a controversial 2017 change to the “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.

Without explanation, justices denied a request from Fernandez Rundle to take a “friend of the court” position in the case, which is before the Supreme Court.

Fernandez Rundle asked the court for permission to “adopt” the position of the League of Prosecutors-Florida, which argues the 2017 change is unconstitutional.

But Bondi’s office objected to Fernandez Rundle becoming involved, saying the Attorney General — and not the State Attorney — has “the authority to speak for the state in its appellate courts.”

The clash stemmed from a Miami-Dade County case in which defendant Tashara Love sought to use the “Stand Your Ground” law to be shielded from prosecution in a November 2015 shooting incident outside a nightclub.

The 2017 change shifted a burden of proof from defendants to prosecutors in determining whether self-defense claims are justified. By placing the burden on prosecutors during pre-trial hearings, the change could help at least some defendants.

Love’s case has focused primarily on whether the 2017 change should apply retroactively to older cases, such as Love’s self-defense claim. But along with the retroactivity issue, the case has drawn arguments about whether the underlying 2017 change was constitutional.

The League of Prosecutors-Florida, which includes current and former prosecutors, contends, in part, that changing the burden of proof in pretrial hearings is unconstitutional because it infringes on the Supreme Court’s right to regulate “practice and procedures in Florida’s courts.”

Bondi’s office argues that the retroactivity issue could be resolved without addressing the broader constitutionality of the 2017 change. Nevertheless, Bondi’s office disputes that the overall change is unconstitutional.

Pam Bondi dubs reports of upcoming Mar-A-Lago meeting as ‘fake news’

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi disputed news she would meet with President Donald Trump in Mar-A-Lago over Thanksgiving to discuss a potential nomination for the U.S. Attorney General position.

“The attorney general says that is fake news,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said in an email to News Service of Florida on Friday.

The denial comes after her name popped up in media reports as a possible replacement for former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump asked to resign immediately after the midterms.

Almost immediately, Bondi arose as one of the more prominent potential choices to succeed Sessions.

McClatchy reported on Friday that Trump plans to host Bondi at Mar-A-Lago for a meeting when he vacations there for Thanksgiving.

The news organization says three administration sources confirm Trump is “seriously considering” Bondi for Attorney General. Notably, Bondi did not respond to calls from that news organization before its report.

Mention of Bondi’s name for the post immediately reignited controversy about a $25,000 donation made by the Trump Foundation to Bondi’s re-election campaign in 2013. Ultimately, the donation, which was illegal for the charitable foundation to make, resulted in a fine for Trump to the IRS.

Bondi herself came under scrutiny because the donation came around the same time her office elected not to pursue an investigation of Trump University.

This isn’t the first time media speculated whether Bondi would play a role in Trump’s administration. Trump named her as part of his transition team’s executive committee, along with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also rumored as a choice for U.S. Attorney General then and now.

She took a meeting Manhattan with Trump while he assembled his initial cabinet. At that time, she told the USA Today ““I’m very happy being attorney general of the state of Florida right now.”

But that was in 2016, two years before the end of her term as Florida Attorney General. Now, her term ends within weeks. Attorney General-elect Ashley Moody will be sworn into the office in January, along with the new Governor and other Cabinet members.

So Bondi no longer holds any professional obligations in the Sunshine State.

But Trump may not be the only New Yorker blowing up her phone. In August. Bondi sought Florida Commission of Ethics clearance before a three-day stint co-host “The Five” on Fox News, fueling speculation she might take on a full-time job on the network after her term expires.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Old he-coon reunion

December 12 will mark twenty years since the passing of Florida’s former Democratic U.S. Senator and Governor Lawton Chiles.

Yet, still to this day, the mark left on Sunshine State politics is very visible.

Most Democrats will tell you he’s the best governor in modern Florida history. And Republicans aren’t quick to dispute.

Then-state Sen. Lawton Mainor Chiles, Jr. walks along a Florida highway. Remembered by Democrats as the best Governor in Florida history, Chiles died twenty years ago Dec. 12.

Supporters, staffers, successors and opponents are celebrating Chiles’ legacy this weekend at the Chiles Jubilee — the first-ever reunion of his close friends, family and colleagues.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is delivering welcome remarks this morning at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa. Former Florida U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham is the featured keynote luncheon speaker.

A series of other events are scheduled, including a panel discussion on the state’s crusade against Big Tobacco, featuring former Attorney General Bob Butterworth. Those in attendance will have a chance to share their favorite memory of Chiles following an evening reception.

Chiles is known notably for his unique campaign strategies and his flashy, southern command of language.

To boost his name recognition during his 1970 bid for the Senate, Chiles embarked on a 1,003-mile, 91-day walk across Florida from Pensacola to Key West.

During a 1994 debate with former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who will deliver remarks at today’s reunion via video, Chiles — in response to being branded an “old liberal” — notably quipped: “The old he-coon walks just before the light of day.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Recount confirms DeSantis victory — With little change in overall margins following Florida’s state-ordered machine recount, Republican Ron DeSantis again declared victory in Florida’s race for Governor. The win was just 0.4 percent, a spread of 33,652 votes. DeSantis described the results as “clear and unambiguous” in a statement following the recount. DeSantis invited his opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum, to a summit to discuss bipartisan observations made on the campaign trail. “We have both traveled the state and met Floridians from all walks of life,” DeSantis said. “Sharing these experiences will, I believe, help us unite our state and build toward unity on behalf of the people of Florida.”

Agriculture Commissioner race in limbo — Following the completion of the machine recount of the Agriculture Commissioner race on Thursday, Democrat Nikki Fried led Republican Matt Caldwell by 5,307 votes, a slightly narrower lead than the 5,326-vote gap reported in the initial tabulation of the race. A manual recount of the race is underway. It’s the only race for Cabinet that will require further consideration. Republican Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County Circuit Court judge, will replace term-limited Pam Bondi in January. Moody defeated her Democratic opponent, Sean Shaw, by six points. Republican Jimmy Patronis will continue to serve as the state’s Chief Financial Officer. He was appointed to the post last year when former CFO Jeff Atwater resigned to take a job as CFO of Florida Atlantic University. Patronis defeated his Democratic opponent Jeremy Ring by three points.

Judge reschedules Senate discrimination hearing — U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle has rescheduled oral arguments for Nov. 30 in a case filed by the Florida Senate after allegations by a legislative aide that she was a victim of sexual harassment and retaliation. The arguments had originally been scheduled for Nov. 8 but were canceled, reports the News Service of Florida. The Senate is seeking to halt the EEOC investigation. Earlier this month, lawyers for the Senate wrote “the ongoing EEOC action violates the Florida Senate’s sovereign and constitutional rights,” including “violat(ing) the Senate’s sovereign immunity.” Rachel Perrin Rogers, a chief assistant to Senate Republican Leader and future Senate President Wilton Simpson, filed the complaint with the EEOC alleging in part that she faced retaliation for sexual harassment claims.

Incoming Speaker names top aide Carol Gormley, a health care policy expert and veteran legislative staffer, incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva. Gormley has worked as a legislative staffer for former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Before being elected to the Senate, Rubio had served a stint as Speaker of the Florida House. In 2012, Gormley worked in the state Senate as a senior policy adviser to then-Senate President Don Gaetz. More recently, she was a senior policy staffer to immediate past House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Senate starts filling out leadership — State Senate President-elect Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, on Wednesday announced his selection of Sen. David Simmons as Senate President Pro Tempore, the upper chamber’s second-in-command post. Simmons, a Longwood Republican, is a longtime state lawmaker, having served an eight-year stint in the state House before being elected to the Senate in 2010. “We have all seen David’s unmatched work ethic and tireless determination to fiercely advocate for the issues and causes he supports,” said Galvano. The Senate is expected to approve Simmons’ appointment on Tuesday, when the chamber meets for Organizational Session. Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva announced his leadership team last week, along with committee assignments.

Putnam criticizes new trade proposal

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is criticizing some of the new trade terms proposed between the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

The term-limited Republican Cabinet member delivered remarks to members of the U.S. International Trade Commission on the USMCA this week, declaring it “anything but a fair and level playing field for Florida’s producers.”

Adam Putnam criticizes the USMCA, President Donald Trump’s replacement to NAFTA.

The USMCA is expected to serve as President Donald Trump’s replacement to NAFTA.

Putnam told commissioners that specialty agricultural products are “unfairly subsidized and are pouring into the U.S. market in high volumes at prices significantly below the cost of production, resulting in negative repercussions on U.S. producers and causing disproportionate economic injury to Florida’s specialty crop industry.”

He added: “Our department, Florida’s Congressional delegation and industry groups have fought hard to protect our specialty crop industry since the inception of NAFTA, and we will continue to do so as this new agreement moves forward.”

DEO highlights apprenticeships

Both job seekers and employers stand to reap enormous benefits from apprenticeships, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

“Apprenticeships help Florida’s employers recruit and keep the talent they need to remain competitive,” DEO Executive Director Cissy Proctor said this week in news release noting National Apprenticeship Week.

Apprenticeships keep Florida employers in the game, says, DEO Executive Director Cissy Proctor.

Getting an early jump on skills training helps novice job seekers gain hands-on experience in prospective fields. It can also help with finances, as apprenticeships are typically accompanied by wages and can reduce or replace student debt.

The DEO in partnership with the Department of Education and CareerSource Florida recently secured the national Apprenticeship USA grant to help build out early skills-based training programs in the Sunshine State.

“We are proud that Florida’s public education system offers students of all ages and backgrounds pathways to reach their academic and career goals,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Instagram of the Week


The week in appointments

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group

Alyssa Beck, 23, of Jacksonville, is an advocacy specialist with the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

Kevin Higgins II, of Riviera Beach, is a former security specialist with PSC Security Services.

Both are appointed for terms that end at the pleasure of the Governor.

Children’s Trust Governing Board of Miami-Dade County

Marissa Leichter, 41, of North Bay Village, is a program manager with the Florida Foster Care Review. Her term is through March 17, 2020.

Tiombe Bisa Dunn, 44, of Miami, is a psychologist with the School Board of Miami-Dade County. She is reappointed for a term through March 17, 2022.

Sanford Bohrer, 70, of Pinecrest, is a partner with Holland and Knight, LLP. He succeeds Miguel Balsera and is appointed for a term through March 17, 2019.

Nicole Gomez, 34, of Miami Beach, is an associate with LSN Partners, LLC. She is appointed for a term through March 17, 2021.

Richard Dunn Jr., 57, of Miami, is a senior pastor with the Faith Community Baptist Church. He succeeds Maria Alonso and is appointed for a term through March 17, 2019.

Lourdes Gimenez, 63, of Miami, is a former administrative director with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She succeeds Lileana De Moya and is appointed for a term through March 17, 2022.

Constance Collins, 60, of Surfside, is the President and Founder of Lotus House Women’s Shelter. She is appointed for a term through March 17, 2021.


OIR’s Murphy wins top honor

One of the insurance field’s highest honors has gone to Susanne Murphy, deputy commissioner for property and casualty in the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

That’s the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Robert Dineen Award for outstanding service and contributions to the state regulation of insurance. She shared the honor with Mel Anderson, a deputy commissioner in Arkansas.

NAIC President Julie Mix McPeak, Deputy Commissioner Susanne Murphy, Commissioner David Altmaier.

Murphy was cited for her advocacy for expansion of the private flood insurance market in Florida and elsewhere, and for helping to lead the state’s recovery from the hurricanes that have hit in recent years. She’s also known as an authority on insurer solvency.

“I cannot be more proud of Susanne and her recent recognition as being acknowledged at the national level for such a prestigious award is quite an achievement.,” Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said. “Susanne Murphy is a prominent player in our nation’s insurance arena, and we are extremely fortunate to have her expertise here in the Sunshine State.”

Irma claims still stack up

Insurance claims arising from Hurricane Irma have surpassed the 1 million threshold, and they’re worth more than $11 billion.

The actual numbers as of Wednesday were 1,002,821 claims, valued at $11,082,199,367. Some 92.4 percent had been resolved.

By far, the largest number of claims came from Miami-Dade County, at 128,661, followed by Collier at 95,273, Broward at 84,042, and Lee at 84,032.

Hurricane Irma is still giving Florida headaches one year later.

The Office of Insurance Regulation had no records identifying the origins of 11,049 claims. The storm made landfall on Sept. 10, 2017, and proceeded to ravage the length of Peninsular Florida. Homeowners have three years to file claims.

“Following Hurricane Irma, and the recent landfall of Michael, we have continued urging residents to contact their insurance company as soon as possible,” Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said. “This is done to limit AOB abuse, the occurrence of additional non-covered damage from interfering and prolonging the claims process, and expediting consumers’ path back to normalcy.

As always, consumers who have insurance-related questions or concerns are urged to contact CFO Jimmy Patronis’ Insurance Consumer Helpline by calling 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.

State regulators provide for hurricane victims

Helping hands have come from across the state and country to the aid of those affected by Hurricane Michael.

This week, even the state Office of Financial Regulation chipped in, providing more than 385 lbs., of non-perishable food and other items to support ongoing relief efforts.

Left to right: Chief of Investigations Steve Horn, Interim Commissioner Pam Epting, Director of Securities Lee Kell, Director of Financial Institutions Jeremy Smith, Director of Consumer Finance Greg Oaks.

The powerful Category 4 storm that swept through the Panhandle and Big Bend on Oct. 10.

“I am proud of our team, and their generous efforts to help friends and neighbors in the Panhandle region who were impacted by this devastating storm,” said Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting. “As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, these donations will benefit families who need them most.”

Donations were delivered to Second Harvest of the Big Bend, a regional food bank serving 11 counties in the Big Bend area.

State reopens hurricane-battered park

Falling Waters State Park in Chipley is again open for day use after briefly closing its gates following Hurricane Michael.

Falling waters state park
Falling Waters is home to the highest cascade in the state.

“Thanks to the hard work of park staff and volunteers, Falling Waters State Park is open for day use,” said Florida State Parks Director Eric Draper. “We hope to reopen all of the state parks impacted by Hurricane Michael as soon as possible.”

As its name suggests, Falling Waters is home a quiet cascade, in fact, the largest one in the state.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Falling Waters suffered significant damage from the powerful Category 4 storm, sustaining downed trees, debris, and structural damage.

Just seven of the 31 state parks closed because of the storm remain unopened.

Utility association recognized for Irma outreach

For its outstanding communication efforts exercised before, during and after Hurricane Irma in 2017, the Florida Municipal Electric Association recently took home an award from the American Public Power Association.

The ‘Award of Merit,’ presented during the American Public Power Association’s Customer Connections Conference in Orlando, honored the “use of social media to communicate information about hurricane preparation, mutual aid coordination, power outages and power restoration efforts in advance,” of the powerful storm, according to FMEA.

Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director, pictured with Coleman Smoak, chair-elect, American Public Power Association and general manager, Piedmont Municipal.

“Not only were we able to get timely information out about outages and power restoration numbers, we were also able to increase the general public’s understanding of the power restoration process and priorities,” said Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director. “We proudly accept this award and thank the American Public Power Association for bestowing this honor upon us.”

According to FMEA, other members of the group received similar distinctions. Among them: Orlando Utilities Commission, Lakeland Electric, Kissimmee Utility Authority, Beaches Energy Services and Keys Energy in their respective categories and classes. The Florida Municipal Power Agency also was recognized.

University system launches campaign

Those tasked with overseeing the state’s 12 public universities want others to know more about the good work that comes out of each institution.

The State University System announced this week the Our Success is Your Success campaign, an effort to promote universities’ impacts on “social mobility, scientific research, and economic growth.”

A new campaign from the Florida State University system is helping to promote cooperation for “social mobility and economic growth.”

“Our message is simple: When our State University System prospers, so does the rest of the state,” Board of Governors Chair Ned Lautenbach said of the campaign.

To market the good news, the campaign will use social media and other communications. It is being carried out in coordination with the Florida Student Association.

The effort will be carried out by the Florida Student Association, which will host the first-ever State University System day at the capital on February 6.

Florida College System awards Best Practices

Four Sunshine State colleges were recently awarded the Florida College System Chancellor’s Best Practice recognition.

“The Chancellor’s Best Practice Awards is an opportunity for our colleges to showcase innovative program strategies that have proved successful at their colleges and in their communities,” said Chancellor Madeline Pumariega. “The best practice awards recognize colleges for creating successful programs and then sharing the high impact practices with all institutions in the Florida College System.”

The higher education panel distinguished Florida Gateway College for its Second-Chance Pell Pilot Program, which offers education access to inmates upon release.

Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega recognized four state colleges for their ‘Best Practices.’

North Florida Community College took home the award for its
“Dual Enrollment Video Conferencing Model,” which caters to rural high school students seeking college credit.

Pensacola State College received the recognition for its Bellwether Virtual Tutoring Program, which helps an estimated 1,000 students each year find individualized help for their studies.

At Polk State College, the award honored the Establishing Leaders in Teacher Education (ELITE Program), which “provides a seamless pathway from high school to college to employment for aspiring teachers, helping students meet local workforce demands through an affordable fast-track pipeline,” according to the Florida College System.

State featured at medical trade show

Enterprise Florida, the state’s principal economic development organization, this week set up shop at MEDICA, the world’s largest medical trade show.

Joining Enterprise Florida at MEDICA’s Düsseldorf, Germany, were nearly 50 other Florida companies. The annual trade show this year spanned Monday through Thursday.

Florida is represented by a record number of Florida-based companies, and this year also marks the 30th consecutive year Florida has attended the show.

The state’s strong representation at the international event is a good sign for Florida’s medical services industry. Last year, Florida companies reported more than $122 million in sales following the show.

“We are so appreciative of the companies that are joining EFI at MEDICA this year,” said Joe York, Vice-Chairman of Enterprise Florida’s Board of Directors. “Events like MEDICA help Florida’s small and medium-sized businesses expand internationally and showcase their products and services to the life science industry.”

In terms of industry size, Florida is the second-ranked state for medical device and pharmaceuticals manufacturing. Nearly 30,000 Floridians work in biotechnology, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and medical device manufacturing industries, according to Enterprise Florida.

‘Course change’ for license suspensions?

Some free-market think tanks are trying to reform the state’s practice of suspending driver’s licenses for crimes not related to operating an automobile.

The James Madison Institute and Reason Foundation released a joint study this week arguing the practice hurts Florida and its taxpayers because it leads to increased court costs and unemployment.

The state suspends licenses for a series of nondriving offenses, the study points out. Among them: most drug crimes, failure to appear in court and failure to pay child support.

Driver’s license suspensions “cut off a vital lifeline for individuals in the workforce,” says Sal Nuzzo.

“These suspensions cut off a vital lifeline for individuals in the workforce, and can herald an endless cycle of fines, court costs, and liabilities that make escaping the criminal justice system nearly impossible,” write Sal Nuzzo, JMI’s vice president of policy, and James Craven, a senior fellow of criminal justice reform at Reason Foundation.

Nuzzo and Craven recommend the state reconsider using license suspensions as a punitive or compliance measure. Other states like California, they note, ended suspensions for minor offenses. In some cases, they suggest giving judges more discretion over suspending licenses, or opting out of the practice entirely.

FSU snags global distinction

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities recently recognized Florida State University its strategies to internationalize the institution.

Sally McRorie, FSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, accepted the 2018 Platinum Level Institutional Award for Global Learning, Research & Engagement last Sunday.

McRorie, along with a team of FSU leaders, accepts the prestigious national award from APLU President Peter McPherson.

The association said FSU had an “extraordinary global-engagement” network. The school received the only ‘Platinum’-level award at the ceremony.

“I think we’re contributing to FSU’s reputation as a place where students can really experience engaged learning in multiple areas, including international study,” said assistant provost Stephen McDowell. “But it’s not only about people who travel abroad. Florida State also creates opportunities on campus for people to engage with students, faculty and speakers from other countries.”

The university also advances its international mission through more than 100 international agreements with partners in 32 countries. In total, FSU faculty members have established affiliations with about 200 institutions worldwide.

More than $1 million in scholarships for study-abroad classes and assists talented students in other countries. International students with at least two semesters abroad can enroll for later classes at FSU and pay in-state tuition.

Hometown hero honored

A shooting earlier this month at a Tallahassee hot yoga studio left two dead and five others injured rocked the nearby community.

But without Joshua Quick, who confronted the shooter allowing others to escape, the casualties could’ve been worse.

In his final City Commission meeting, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum gives the key to the city to Joshua Quick, the man who helped save lives during a shooting at a hot yoga studio last month.

For his actions during the tragedy, Quick was awarded an honorary key to the city by the Tallahassee City Commission, including Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude,” Quick said, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. “I cannot overstate my gratitude to everybody — the first responders and even the people who were in the yoga studio with me who saw firsthand what transpired.”

A law school student at Florida State University, President John Thrasher announced on Friday that the university would begin raising funds to relieve Quick of his tuition and related expenses.

Capitol Directions

Pam Bondi, prosecutor in ‘Stand Your Ground’ clash

Attorney General Pam Bondi is seeking to block Miami-Dade County’s top prosecutor from getting involved in a Florida Supreme Court case and supporting arguments that a 2017 change to the “stand your ground” self-defense law is unconstitutional.

Bondi’s office late Tuesday filed a document opposing a request by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to take a friend-of-the-court position in the case. Fernandez Rundle has asked the court for permission to “adopt” the position of the League of Prosecutors-Florida, which argues the controversial 2017 change is unconstitutional.

The newly filed document said Bondi is Florida’s chief legal officer and that she — and not the state attorney — represents the state in such cases. It said granting Fernandez Rundle’s request would “serve no purpose other than to circumvent Florida law, which grants the attorney general, not the state attorney, the authority to speak for the state in its appellate courts.”

The highly unusual clash stems from a Miami-Dade County case in which defendant Tashara Love sought to use the “stand your ground” law to be shielded from prosecution in a November 2015 shooting incident outside a nightclub.

The “stand your ground” law 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. When the defense is successfully raised in pretrial hearings, defendants are granted immunity from prosecution.

The 2017 law shifted a burden of proof from defendants to prosecutors in determining whether self-defense claims are justified. By placing the burden on prosecutors during pretrial hearings, the change could help at least some defendants.

Love’s case has focused primarily on whether the 2017 change should apply retroactively to older cases, such as Love’s self-defense claim. Appeals courts have taken different stances on the retroactivity issue, and the Supreme Court agreed in June to hear Love’s case.

But along with the retroactivity issue, the case also has drawn arguments about whether the underlying 2017 change was constitutional. The League of Prosecutors-Florida, which includes current and former prosecutors, contends, in part, that changing the burden of proof in pretrial hearings is unconstitutional because it infringes on the Supreme Court’s right to regulate “practice and procedures in Florida’s courts.”

“The determination of which party in a court proceeding has the burden of going forward with the evidence, i.e. the burden of proof, is a matter of procedure, subject only to judicial authority,” the organization said in an Oct. 25 brief.

Fernandez Rundle’s request to get involved in the case said her office also has argued in circuit court that the 2017 change is unconstitutional.

“(The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office) supports the position of the League of Prosecutors and desires to adopt its brief as its own in an amicus (friend of the court) capacity,” the request said. “It is important for this court to recognize that (the State Attorney’s Office) has not changed its basic position that the statute is unconstitutional.”

Bondi’s office, which did not object to the League of Prosecutors-Florida filing a brief, contends that the retroactivity issue could be resolved without addressing the broader constitutionality of the 2017 change. Nevertheless, Bondi’s office disputes that the change is unconstitutional.

“Burden of proof provisions allocating and prescribing the applicable burden of proof in judicial proceedings are commonplace in both civil and criminal statutory schemes. … Notwithstanding the prevalence and venerable status of such laws, the state is unaware of any case in which this (Supreme) Court struck down a burden-of-proof statute as an impermissible encroachment on the court’s authority to promulgate procedural rules,” Bondi’s office said in an Oct. 19 brief.


Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Cabinet meeting called off

A state Cabinet meeting scheduled for next week with relatively little notice has been canceled.

The meeting was scheduled to be held Tuesday by telephone and include two Florida Power & Light power-plant projects in South Florida.

But a note on the Cabinet webpage Wednesday said, “This meeting has been canceled.”

No reason was given.

Representatives for Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The meeting was announced Monday and the agenda posted Tuesday morning.

Among the topics were plans by Florida Power & Light to build a 1,200-megawatt power plant in Broward County that has drawn opposition from the Sierra Club and a proposed FPL nuclear project at the Turkey Point complex in Miami-Dade County.

Scott and the Cabinet act as a state “siting” board with authority to decide whether power-plant projects should move forward.

In 2014, they approved FPL’s plans to add two nuclear reactors at Turkey Point.

But the decision was overturned by the 3rd District Court of Appeal, as local governments argued the governor and Cabinet failed to use Miami land-development rules and erred in claiming they didn’t have authority to require transmission lines be installed underground at FPL’s expense.

Scott and the Cabinet are scheduled to meet Dec. 4.

Pam Bondi 9-6-2017

Pam Bondi, FDLE now watching recounts for ’criminal activity‘

After a public scolding of the statewide police agency, Attorney General Pam Bondi now says her office is “actively engaged” with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to watch for recount shenanigans. 

Several recounts are underway, including in the U.S. Senate, Governor’s and Agriculture Commissioner’s races. A joint Attorney General’s Office/FDLE statement released Monday night said they are “monitoring (those) processes for potential criminal activity.”

The statement did not make clear whether that meant state lawyers, agents or other employees were stationed at any of the county supervisor of election offices where recounts are now taking place. A request for clarification is pending.

Outgoing GOP Gov. Rick Scott, the so far prevailing candidate in the Senate race, and President Donald Trump have complained of election fraud without offering any evidence. An FDLE spokesperson previously said the agency had received “no allegations of fraud.”

Nonetheless, the new statement said “procedures (are) in place to address allegations of fraud or other criminal misconduct associated with any election in Florida.”

Further, “FDLE has been in continuous contact with the Department of State and we continue to work jointly. As allegations are received, FDLE will continue to vet and review those that may be indicative of criminal activity.”

Florida Politics sent a public records request over the weekend to the Department of State, asking for “copies of all elections fraud complaints filed with the (department) stemming from the 2018 general election.” That request also is pending.  

Bondi, a term-limited Tampa Republican who leaves office in January, had sent and publicly released a letter to FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen on Sunday. In it, she said she was “deeply troubled by your announcement that you will not pursue any investigation or inquiry into clearly documented irregularities of election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties.”

In a separate letter, she also demanded that Secretary of State Ken Detzner report all election irregularities in those Democratic-leaning counties to the Office of Statewide Prosecution, which reports to her.

That was then.

FDLE agents and analysts in the Office of Executive Investigations, Miami Regional Operations Center and members of the Commissioner’s Office continue to examine allegations, by interviewing individuals, assessing potential evidence, and researching relevant statutes,” the Monday night statement said. “A case will remain open while allegations are being analyzed.”

FDLE agreed to “work closely” with Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution “on any criminal investigation and subsequent prosecution,” it also said, adding:

We encourage citizens to remain peaceful as the recount process continues.” 

Amid recount, Pam Bondi raises prosecution threat for Broward, Palm Beach officials

Outgoing Attorney General Pam Bondi on Sunday scolded the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for declining so far to investigate the tabulation of votes in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Bondi, a Tampa Republican, also demanded Secretary of State Ken Detzner report all election irregularities in the Democratic-leaning counties to the Office of Statewide Prosecution, which reports to her.

The state’s chief legal officer sent a letter to FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen saying the law enforcement agency has an obligation to investigate now.

“I am deeply troubled by your announcement that you will not pursue any investigation or inquiry into clearly documented irregularities of election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties,” Bondi wrote.

In a separate letter, Bondi told Detzner to report “any indication creating a reasonable suspicion of potential criminal activity” on the part of Broward or Palm Beach elections officials to her office. (Both letters are also at the bottom of this post.)

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, as a U.S. Senate candidate and not as Governor, on Thursday announced a lawsuit against Broward and Palm Beach counties demanding records on the number of votes cast.

That came as continued votes caused his lead in a Senate race over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson to erode.

When final unofficial vote totals were reported to the Division of Elections by noon Saturday, Scott held a 12,562-vote, or 0.15 percent, lead in the Senate election—well with the 0.5 percent to trigger a statewide mandatory machine recount.

At a press conference, Scott also called on the FDLE to investigate irregularities in the two counties.

An FDLE spokesperson said they were “working with” Department of State officials but had not received any credible reports of elections fraud and would not investigate—at least not at that time.

“The FDLE communicated with the Department of State and they indicated at the time that they have no allegations of fraud,” FDLE spokesman Jeremy Burns said Friday afternoon.

“We offered our assistance in the event that any criminal allegations are identified, and we will remain in contact with them.”

Bondi’s letters came the same day that Scott filed an emergency complaint (see below) seeking to require that FDLE and local sheriff’s offices impound and secure all voting machines, tallies, and ballots in Broward and Palm Beach counties that are not actively in use.

Scott’s complaint also asks a judge to insist, in particular, that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes not destroy any ballots and that Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher follow legal requirements for reviewing ballots.

In a statement, Democrats said such tactics showed an abuse of power by Scott.

“In suing to seize ballots and impound voting machines, Rick Scott is doing his best to impersonate Latin American dictators who have overthrown democracies in Venezuela and Cuba,” said Juan Peñalosa, the Florida Democratic Party’s executive director.

“The Governor is using his position to consolidate power by cutting at the very core of our Democracy.”

CNN: Pam Bondi in the mix for U.S. Attorney General

Outgoing Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi could become the next U.S. Attorney General, according to CNN.

“There are many people in contention for that position just because there are many qualified people who would like to do it,” Kellyanne Conway, one of President Donald Trump’s chief advisers, told reporters.

Sources listed Bondi in the mix, along with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Of course, the network notes a potential stumble Bondi could face because of past controversy about a $25,000 contribution made by Trump University to Bondi’s re-election campaign in 2013.

Around the same time, Bondi’s office dropped an investigation of Trump University.

Bondi always maintained there was no connection between the investigation and the donation, but the timing of the events drew national criticism after Trump launched his presidential bid and Bondi endorsed Trump’s candidacy.

Congressional Democrats in 2016 called for an investigation into the legality if the donations and whether Bondi engaged in pay-to play. So the matter will surely come up again in any confirmation hearings on the Hill.

Trump yesterday asked for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation, thus creating the sudden job opening in Washington, D.C.

The moves comes at an interesting time for Bondi, who soon wraps up eight years as Florida Attorney General. She cannot run again because of term limits.

The Florida native earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Florida and law degree from Stetson University.

She’s focused during her time on office on cracking down on pill mills, work that landed her a spot on the President’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission. She’s also worked on Florida legislation regarding synthetic dtreet drugs.

She’s also focused on prosecuting human trafficking, chairing the state’s human trafficking council.

Florida just elected Republican Ashley Moody, whom Bondi endorsed in the primary, as the next Attorney General.

‘America’s Mayor’ Rudy Giuliani slams ‘failed Mayor’ Andrew Gillum

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani bolstered the gubernatorial campaign of Ron DeSantis on Sunday in Daytona.

“America’s Mayor,” who was in prime form at his first stop for the campaign, was most quotable when bashing Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum.

Calling Gillum a “socialist” and a “failed mayor running for governor,” Giuliani said the election would be a ten-point spread “if the media covered it fairly.”

“How about just fair coverage? How about the good things Ron DeSantis might have done … instead of the one or two things he might have done wrong, I don’t know what they are,” Giuliani said.

“Don’t try to fool us with a failed Mayor … with an anti-Israel, anti-law enforcement mayor,” Giuliani said (seemingly rhetorically) to the Democratic Party.

Giuliani wondered how “the guy who set the record for the most murders [in the history of Tallahassee] has the balls to run for anything else.”

“He doesn’t know what he’s doing. I could tell him how to reduce crime in Tallahassee … he set his own record, like Babe Ruth,” Giuliani said.

Much of Giuliani’s commentary involved musings about how biased reporting was misinterpreting the Trump movement.

Giuliani was joined by Attorney General Pam Bondi, who said DeSantis was a “prosecutor. That’s what we need right now, not someone being investigated.”

Rudy Giuliani, Pam Bondi to stump for Ron DeSantis

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani joins Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis on Sunday during a campaign stop in South Daytona. The Republican leaders, along with Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi, will headline a rally at 1:30 p.m. at the Volusia County REC Headquarters. The group then heads to the Boca Raton Victory Office for another event. DeSantis and Bondi will continue to a barbeque supporting the Republican ticket this year at Sharon J. Sheffield Park in Lynn Haven.

Giuliani, who led New York when the city was attacked on 9/11, today acts as one of President Donald Trump’s personal attorneys.

He’s represented serves at time as a chief surrogate pushing back against the ongoing Russia Probe by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Giuiliani comes to the Sunshine State a day after Trump holds a second rally in a week promoting DeSantis’ candidacy.

DeSantis faces Democrat Andrew Gillum in the gubernatorial election.

This won’t be the first time Giuliani weighs in on the Florida race. On Oct. 30, he attacked Gillum on Twitter.

“The Democrat candidate for Governor in Florida is reportedly under criminal investigation by the FBI,” Giuliani said. “His city has highest crime in State. He wants to raise your taxes. I’m not sure you know this because the press has been sickenly biased. Vote for Ron DeSantis.”

Of course, it may be unlikely voters paying to the attention missed those accusations. DeSantis regularly makes the assertions a part of his stump speeches at rallies, and Trump stressed the talking points at a rally earlier this week.

Bondi ultimately jumped on the DeSantis train after endorsing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the primary.

But Bondi’s presence alongside Giuliani helps stress the pro-law enforcement message that DeSantis has drilled in during the final stretch of the campaign. DeSantis, Giuliana and Bondi all started their careers as prosecutors.

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