Rick Scott Archives - Florida Politics

Pat Neal: Florida must commit to the future and invest in high-tech jobs

Pat Neal

The world around us is constantly changing as technology evolves. Investing in high-tech jobs can set Florida up to succeed far into the future while providing people with high-wage jobs that will keep the American dream alive and well in our great state.

Other states have already committed to investments in the future, with millions of dollars being poured into high-tech centers that boost the economy and create hundreds of jobs.

Luckily, our state leadership is committed to this goal, with Gov. Rick Scott recognizing the growing need for high-tech jobs in the state. He has consistently touted STEM programs in Florida’s education system, including his $10,000 STEM Degree Challenge to steer students into high-tech STEM jobs. He approved $15 million in funding last year for the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, now BRIDG, which partners with universities and companies to develop high-tech sensors.

Studies have shown that regions and states comprising of high-tech research and industrial centers achieve economic boons.

The Bluffs, an advanced manufacturing park in Pensacola, is a prime example: A Florida TaxWatch report found that about 6,000 new positions in Pensacola’s manufacturing sector would be created if The Bluffs reached its maximum potential. It goes on to state that new wages in the region as a result of increased job creation could grow by as much as $400 million and that Florida’s Gross State Product could rise by as much as $1.1 billion.

Research centers like BRIDG and The Bluffs are critical pieces to Florida’s high-tech puzzle and need both private and public support to attract companies to invest in them. We will need every available resource in the toolkit to do so, including Enterprise Florida (EFI), which has played a large role in the development of BRIDG and The Bluffs.

Unfortunately, EFI is at risk of being eliminated completely by the Florida Legislature, which would cut our investments on opportunities in high-tech fields. This would be an unwise move, especially as other states bolster their efforts to build up their high-tech industries and put Florida at a disadvantage to other states, halting the progress the state has made in high-tech principles. Instead, lawmakers in Tallahassee should consider the benefits of using EFI and other state resources to boost our high-tech footprint.

In this global economy, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Making an investment to ensure that Florida becomes a high-tech hub that attracts the top individuals and companies to the state is essential to the success.

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Pat Neal is a former state senator and the former chair of the Christian Coalition of Florida; he currently serves as chairman-elect for the board of directors of Florida TaxWatch, the state’s independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute and government watchdog; and is the president of Neal Communities.

Vern Buchanan asks Rick Scott to direct federal anti-drug money into his district

Rep. Vern Buchanan is asking Gov. Rick Scott to send a “significant” amount of newly received federal anti-drug money to his congressional district, parts of which have been among of the hardest hit by the opioid drug crisis.

“I want to make sure that this funding goes where it’s needed most — Florida’s Suncoast,” he wrote in his letter. “My district is suffering and this money will help save lives.”

Florida will receive $27 million in funding from The 21st Century Cures Act to help combat the ongoing opioid epidemic in the state. A total of $485 million is being sent to the states for addressing the crisis of opioid addiction.

Manatee and Sarasota counties had the highest and second-highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2015.

Fentanyl, also known as synthetic heroin, killed more Floridians than heroin in 2015, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. Fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin, was responsible for 911 deaths compared to 779 killed by a heroin overdose.

Buchanan also represents part of Hillsborough County, which he said should receive significant funding as well because it accounted for 12 percent of all babies born addicted to opioids in Florida in 2015.

Buchanan contacted Scott following last week’s announcement that nearly $500 million in federal aid will be distributed this year to states to confront the drug crisis.  The grant funding is part of this year’s $485 million national allocation included in the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill Buchanan strongly supported. Another $485 million national allocation will be sent to states next year. These programs take a multi-pronged approach to tackling drug problems by beefing up drug abuse treatment and prevention, training health care practitioners in best prescribing practices, and improving prescription monitoring.

According to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, Manatee County had the highest number of cocaine deaths per capita in 2015 and 2014 of all 67 counties, the highest number of Florida morphine deaths per capita in 2015 and 2014 and the highest number of Florida heroin deaths per capita in the state in 2015 and 2014

Earlier this year, Buchanan announced that he has co-sponsored the STOP Act (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act), which would toughen screening of overseas shipments of deadly synthetic drugs coming into the United States.

Supreme Court denies Aramis Ayala’s first writ to win back cases Rick Scott reassigned

The Florida Supreme Court denied the first attempt by Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala to win back first-degree murder cases that Gov. Rick Scott reassigned to another state attorney.

In denying Ayala’s emergency, non-routine petition to overturn Scott’s executive orders reassigning the cases to Ocala’s State Attorney Brad King, the Supreme Court concluded that the matter “is more properly addressed” through her other legal challenge, a writ of quo warranto, which she later filed.

That leaves the matter where most expected it to be left, in her second challenge of Scott’s action, a case that has drawn broad support for both Ayala and Scott from a variety of outside groups who expect the ruling to be pivotal in determining the extent of powers in Florida of both the state attorney and the governor.

At issue are Ayala’s refusal to pursue death penalty prosecutions in her 9th Judicial Circuit, and Scott’s determination that she is derelict in her duties, giving him the responsibility to reassign potential death penalty cases to someone else, in this case to King in Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit.

In a ruling issued late Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied the first petition from Ayala, stating, “The Petition asks this Court to answer the same question of law, on a temporary basis, that the Court is asked to address in the separately filed Petition for Writ of Quo Warranto. That question is more properly addressed after both parties have been heard in the Quo Warranto action and will not be answered on a “temporary” basis.”

UF law students discuss, debate ahead of Constitutional Revision Commission meeting

Gainesville — With the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission set to hold a public hearing here Wednesday — the fifth of nine hearings scheduled throughout the state as a part of Florida’s unique, citizen-initiative constitutional revision process, which occurs every 20 years — several dozen law students at the University of Florida assembled Monday afternoon in an auditorium named in honor of the chairman of the state’s first CRC, Chesterfield Smith, to discuss the constitutional revision process with a member of the 1997-98 Commission, Jon Mills, and a historian of the state constitution, Mary Adkins.

One thing the students learned in the hourlong talk is that the CRC that convened this year is the first in Florida history that has not been chaired by a graduate of the UF law school.

“Here’s a fun fact,” said Adkins, whose book — Making Modern Florida: How the Spirit of Reform Shaped a New State Constitution — was published last year by University Press of Florida. “From the 1956 group that was created by statute to originally draft this constitution, through to the 1997-98 group, all of them were chaired by a UF law grad.”

Referring to the chair of the 2017-2018 CRC, Carlos Beruff — a real estate developer appointed last month by Gov. Rick Scott — Adkins added, “This particular chair is not a college graduate.”

“There are no minimum qualifications to be a member of the body that has the power to place constitutional amendments directly on the ballot,” she said.

A student spoke up to say he was “very disappointed” in that change in the leadership tradition of the CRC, but Adkins said, “It’s a new era, not a lot of looking toward the past. This is also the first (CRC) in which there are no members on this one that were ever on (a Florida CRC) in the past.”

Mills, who served on the previous CRC, is a dean emeritus of the UF law school and a member of its faculty. He urged students to attend the commission’s hearing and present the proposals they developed in his public policy practicum this semester.

“Many of you already have much more detail in your proposals than almost anybody, so I suggest you follow through,” he said. “I do encourage you to articulate those and put them in front of the commission.”

Mills — who represented Gainesville as a Democrat in the Florida House from 1978-88 and served as House speaker from 1987-88 — recalled a medical marijuana proposal that he opposed when it was presented to the 1997-98 CRC.

“Things you bring up may have their own life,” he told the students. “It may be wrong, but it may happen.”

Mills’ current practicum addresses “constitution-making by initiative and in the context of constitutional commissions,” according to the school’s online catalog. He said that his students have developed constitutional proposals aimed at “making elections broader and more accessible in terms of both registration and days to vote and issues dealing with reapportionment.”

Another proposal developed in his class would ensure that a minimum 1 percent of the state budget is used to fund the judiciary in Florida. Without such a provision in the state constitution, Florida’s judiciary “could be cut entirely,” Mills said, recalling resolutions filed in the state House and Senate this Session that urge the U.S. Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to allow Congress to reject judicial rulings.

Some other proposals UF law students have developed would raise the mandatory retirement age to 75 and repeal a prohibition on a state income tax in Florida, “giving us a little bit of fiscal flexibility,” said Trevor Tezel, a second-year law student from Cocoa Beach.

Adding human rights protections in the categories of “gender identity and sexual orientation” also “seems prudent,” he said.

The CRC hearing in Gainesville is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at the UF Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. A CRC hearing is also set for Jacksonville Thursday and next month in Panama City, Fort Myers and Hillsborough County.

Jon Mills (second from right) was a member of the 1997-98 Florida Constitution Revision Commission. He is pictured on Mon., April 24, at the University of Florida law school with some of the students enrolled in his spring semester 2017 public policy practicum: from left, Brian Nelson, Anthony Sabatini, Trevor Tezel and Josh Rieger. (Photo courtesy Susan Washington)

Martin Dyckman: On death warrants, Florida governor’s ‘awesome moral responsibility’

When former Florida Gov. LeRoy Collins was nominated in 1964 to head the nation’s new Community Relations Service, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond opposed him aggressively because Collins had renounced racial segregation.

“…I hope that as long as the good Lord lets me live on this earth I will continue to grow and to recognize changes and to meet the new responsibility as changes require,” Collins said.

The widely-reported confrontation prompted Dessie Horne Williams, a Miami schoolteacher, to write to Collins, recalling a meeting with him five years earlier at the governor’s office.

“(W)e have always thought of you as a kind, understanding man, who feels compassion for human suffering no matter what color the skin of the sufferer may be,” she wrote … You, Governor Collins, are a true” Southern gentleman. May God keep you through the coming trials.”

Collins’s courtesy to anyone he met was legendary. Even so, the Williams letter was remarkable.

On the occasion she described, she and her parents were pleading for the life of her brother, Willie Horne Jr., who was condemned to die for rape. Collins commuted 10 of the 39 death sentences that came to him, but not Horne’s. The prisoner was executed in January 1959. However, Collins had given his family his personal attention and a full measure of compassionate respect.

At the time, though, Ms. Williams had asked a question that struck his heart: “Do you think that my brother is going to die because he is black?”

Collins assured her that it was only because of the brutality of the crime. The victim’s escort, a court said, had been beaten senseless with a tire iron.

But the governor’s conscience was troubled. He knew that had the victim been black or both parties white, the jury almost certainly would have recommended mercy. He tasked his staff to find reasons to repeal the death penalty, and when the Legislature convened a few months later he asked that it do so.

The House committee that killed the bill said that without the possibility of a death penalty, a resumption of lynchings “can certainly be anticipated.”

It was a rare if unwitting acknowledgment of the profound racism that accounts for the South’s peculiar and persistent obsession with the death penalty.

It clearly matters more to the politicians than to the voters. A Florida survey by Public Policy Polling last year found that only 35 percent of respondents favored execution over life without parole. The question was asked in the abstract however, without a politician waving some bloody shirt in the background.

Collins confronted the racism.

“By far the great majority of those to be executed were Negroes,” he said, “and yet only 17 percent of the state’s population were colored. It was a gross travesty on the principle of equal protection.”

Whites are now the majority on Florida’s death row, but blacks are still disproportionately represented. Florida has never executed a white for a crime against a black but one appeal is pending. As of last October, blacks were still the majorities on 12 other death rows, nine of them in the South.

Although the death penalty remains in force outside the South, it is in near disuse except in Florida and other former slave states. The South accounts for 1,180 of the 1,448 U.S. executions since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment 41 years ago, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. That’s 81 percent. Florida is fourth highest on the list with 92. Texas leads with a staggering 542. Outside the South, however, there haven’t been any since 2014, except for one in Oklahoma.

Race bias was evident in how Florida governors and the state pardon board commuted death sentences between 1924, when Florida first began to keep track of them, and 1964, when executions paused for 15 years.

In a paper published in 1993, Margaret Vandiver, a criminology professor at the University of Memphis, found that blacks condemned for crimes against whites in Florida were executed in 90 of 95 cases. On the other hand, whites whose victims were white received clemency in 22 of 83 cases. Blacks on death row whose victims were black were spared nearly half the time, in 27 of 61 cases. There were no death sentences, hence no commutations, for whites convicted of crimes against blacks.

The disparity was greatest in convictions for rape, which is no longer a capital crime. Of the 40 black men condemned for raping white women during the 40 years Vandiver reviewed, only two got clemency. One was Willie Irvin, of the “Groveland Four,” who had been framed by a racist sheriff. The Florida House of Representatives formally apologized to their families last week. Irvin had exhausted his appeals when Collins drew vehement criticism for commuting his sentence in 1955.

The point is that Collins did commute his sentence, doubting his guilt, and spared nine other men as well. No Florida governor has commuted a sentence since Bob Graham last did so in 1983. In another glaring departure, Florida governors apparently are no longer willing to face or hear from the families of condemned prisoners, as Collins did every time.

I have been trying with scant success to find out how Gov. Rick Scott considers clemency in comparison to how Collins did it. Among the questions I sent his press secretary, Lauren Schenone: Does he accept comments from lawyers for death row inmates? Does he consider each case himself or does he accept the decisions made by former governors whose death warrants were stayed in the courts? Does he consider the trial and appeal process to be essentially infallible?

Her answer was terse, said little, but was revealing in one important respect.

“Signing death warrants is one of the Governor’s most solemn duties. His foremost concerns are consideration for the families of the victims and the finality of judgments. (Emphasis supplied.)

“Our office follows procedures outlined in Rule 15 of the Rules for Executive Clemency on this process,” she said.

Rule 15 shrouds all the process in secrecy and says that the Commission on Offender Review “may” — not shall — conduct an investigation in each case. There is no data on how often it does so. The rule also provides that the Governor and Cabinet may schedule a public discussion, but that practice ceased during Jeb Bush’s term.

The words in italics, “finality of judgment,” suggest that Scott doesn’t care, as Collins did, that the courts might make mistakes with fatal consequences. His conscience is dead to that possibility. Once the legal case is over, that’s it.

That is a profound abdication of a governor’s most awesome moral responsibility.

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Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times and author of “Floridian of His Century: The Courage of Gov. LeRoy Collins,” published by the University Press of Florida. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

If another SCOTUS opening occurs, will Charles Canady get a serious look?

According to Sen. Charles Grassley, the U.S. Supreme Court may need to fill another opening this summer. The Iowa Republican, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not name names, but rumors are swirling it could be the Court’s swing vote, 80-year-old Anthony Kennedy.

If that occurs, President Trump will go back to his list of 21 potential nominees, now numbering 20 after the elevation of Neil Gorsuch. Rumored to be on the short list before Gorsuch’s selection was Judge William Pryor of Alabama from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Diane Sykes of Wisconsin from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

If those rumors are true, will those three again go to the top? How about some of the others? Also on the Trump list are Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady and Judge Federico Moreno from the Southern District of Florida.

The next nominee will be an appeals court judge or a state supreme court justice. Moreno and Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee are the only two not fitting that description. Moreno’s logical next step is a promotion to the court of appeals.

Will Canady receive serious consideration this time? He has similar educational training to the current Court.

All 9 current justices studied law at either Harvard or Yale (Ruth Bader Ginsburg started at Harvard, but earned her law degree from Columbia). Canady received his degree from Yale, while Pryor came from Tulane, Sykes from Marquette, and Hardiman from Georgetown. Gorsuch attended Harvard and Oxford.

As a former state legislator, four-term Congressman and General Counsel for Gov. Jeb Bush, Canady understands the separation of powers between the three branches of government. He was Chief Justice from 2010-2012 and along with Ricky Polston, comprise the Court’s reliable conservative minority.

If Gov. Rick Scott wanted to bend Trump’s ear about Canady, the President would certainly listen. There is no question Scott and Trump are of like minds on many topics in addition to jobs. Another Trump friend, Attorney General Pam Bondi, could do the same.

On the downside, Canady will be 63 years old in June. Next to Moreno (64) and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young, who is 65, Canady is the oldest on the list.

Pryor is 55, Sykes 58 and Hardiman is 52. The thought of having someone on the bench for 30 years is an appealing quality for a sitting president.

Confirmation hearings would certainly be lively. Millennials will not likely recall the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, but Canady was one of the House prosecutors. Would Democrats have fun with that?

How about being questioned by Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham? The South Carolina Republican was also one of the impeachment prosecutors (known as House Managers).

How juicy would it be for Canady to be tapped and for Charlie Crist to receive some credit for raising Canady’s profile? It was then-Governor Crist who appointed Canady to the Florida Supreme Court.

Perhaps Canady wound up on Trump’s list as a favor to Scott, or the president will actually give him a serious look. No one has retired yet, but that doesn’t stop playing the “what ifs” game in the meantime.

Families of homicide victims, ACLU, Janet Cruz join filers in Aramis Ayala case

Friends of the court are beginning to crowd into the Florida Supreme Court case pitting Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala and Gov. Rick Scott, with families of homicide victims siding with Scott, and the ACLU and House Minority Leader Janet Cruz siding with Ayala on Friday.

Several filings Friday are loading the case with friends. Also Friday, a group of more than 40 former judges and prosecutors filed a brief supporting Ayala’s case, and a group of Democratic Florida lawmakers filed their promised brief supporting her.

Now on the way is a brief from family members of homicide victims including those of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton and Sade Dixon, who asked the court for permission to file their brief supporting Scott.

And a coalition of several groups led by the ACLU asked to file on Ayala’s behalf Friday.

Cruz filed requesting to join the group of Democratic lawmakers, led by Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, supporting Ayala.

Those are all in addition to amicus briefs filed or pledged by another coalition of groups supporting Ayala, and the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Florida House of Representatives supporting Scott.

Ayala and Scott are battling over whether she has the right to refuse to pursue death penalty prosecutions in her 9th Judicial Circuit, as she has declared; and whether he has the right to intervene and reassign her potential death-penalty cases to other state attorneys. He has reassigned 23 of her first-degree murder cases to State Attorney Brad King of Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit. She has petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to determine if he can do so, and has sued Scott in federal court.

The homicide victims’ families include those of Clayton and Dixon, who were slain in January in a case that sparked outrage throughout Central Florida, and then fired a storm against Ayala when she announced in March that she would not seek any death penalty prosecutions, starting with that case against suspect Markeith Loyd. Others seeking to file in support of Scott include the families of 9th Judicial Circuit homicide victims Darrell Avant Jr., Jasmine Samuel, Elena Ortega, Alexandria Fransa Chery, and Teresa Ann Green.

The Supreme Court granted their requests Friday. They’ve promised to file their brief by May 3.

“The Family Members have special rights afforded by the Florida Constitution and statutes. The Florida Supreme Court would benefit greatly from the unique perspective of this group so seriously affected by the Petitioner’s refusal to consider their constitutional and statutory rights,” their filing states.

“Family Members can provide the Court useful insight regarding the Petitioner’s disregard of a homicide victim’s family’s rights and input in making prosecution decisions,” the filing continues.

The other new request for a friend of court brief came from a coalition including the American Civil Liberties Union Capital Punishment Project, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the Sentencing Project, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Earlier the Florida State Conference of the NAACP had filed a friend-of-the-court brief favoring Ayala, as part of a coalition that was formed and is led by The Advancement Project’s National Office.

The ACLU coalition request also was approved right away Friday.

“The proposed amicus curiae brief would address the crucial question of the Governor’s authority to reassign 23 capital cases from State Attorney Ayala to a different State attorney not elected by the people of the Ninth Judicial Circuit,” The ACLU request states. “It will further address why the Governor lacks authority to reassign the cases, as he claims, under Section 27.14, Florida Statute.”

 

Florida’s unemployment rate dips to 4.8% in March

Florida’s unemployment rate is dropping.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity announced Friday the unemployment rate dipped to 4.8 percent in March, down from 5 percent one month earlier. That’s slightly lower than March 2016, when the state reported a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.9 percent.

“This is an exciting day — jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Gov. Rick Scott, who announced the March jobs numbers at Pelican Wire in Naples. “When I ran back in 2010, I ran on a campaign of 700,000 jobs over seven years. Now we’re at 6 years and 3 months and 1.35 million jobs. That’s great. This state is on a roll. We have job openings in our state, our labor force is growing.”

On Friday, Scott boasted the state has added more than 60,000 private sector jobs in the first quarter of 2017. That brings the total number of private sector jobs added since December 2010 more than 1.3 million, according to the Governor’s Office.

According to the Department of Economic Opportunity, the education and health services industry saw the most job gains in March. The industry, according to the agency, added 44,300 jobs, or a 3.6 percent increase.

The professional and business services industry added 43,500 jobs in March, followed by trade, transportation and utilities with 40,3000 jobs, and the construction industries with 36,500 jobs. The information industry was the only industry losing jobs, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

The Orlando area led the state in job creation, adding 42,700 new private-sector jobs in March, according to the Governor’s Office. The unemployment rate for the region was 3.9 percent.

The leisure and hospitality industry led the pack in Orlando, adding 12,000 new jobs; followed by trade, transportation and utilities with 8,200 new jobs, and professional and business services with 7,1200 new jobs.

The Tampa Bay region added nearly 42,000 new jobs and had an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent. The region was first among the metro areas in job demand, with 44,544 job openings.

Monroe County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.8 percent, while Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate at 6.4 percent.

More than 40 top judicial, prosecutorial officials to file in support of Aramis Ayala

A group of more than 40 former Florida Supreme Court justices, and judges, prosecutors and legal officials from throughout the country are filing an amicus brief supporting Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala in her power-struggle with Gov. Rick Scott, contending that the issues in their court battles are of national importance.

“By seeking to remove Ayala from all cases that might implicate the death penalty, the Governor does serious damage to the fundamental values of separation of powers and the democratic process, and threatens the bedrock principle of prosecutorial independence upon which much of our criminal justice system rests,” the brief argues.

The group includes former Florida Supreme Court justices Harry Lee Anstead, Rosemary Barkett, Gerald Kogan, and James E.C. Perry; former United States Solicitors General Walter Dellinger, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., and Seth Waxman; four former Supreme Court justices from other states; five current or former state attorneys general from other states, and dozens of current or former judges, prosecutors, and justice officials from throughout the country. Anstead, Barkett and Kogan are former chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court.

Ayala and Scott are battling over whether she has the right to refuse to pursue death penalty prosecutions in her 9th Judicial Circuit, as she has declared; and whether he has the right to intervene and reassign her potential death-penalty cases to other state attorneys. He has reassigned 23 of her first-degree murder cases to State Attorney Brad King of Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit. She has petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to determine if he can do so, and has sued Scott in federal court.

Scott’s action “is a dangerous, dangerous thing,” former Florida Chief Justice Kogan, who left the Florida Supreme Court in 1999, said to FloridaPolitics.com.

“Let’s assume for a moment that the governor did have the authority to move a state attorney or a district attorney off the case. What’s going to happen, it may not be limited in the long run to capital cases. It could be any case,” said Kogan, a former capital crimes prosecutor and criminal justice chief judge in Miami-Dade County. “So absolutely, you could have the governor as the one who is going to be running the prosecution in that particular state. That’s not what we have, with the balance of power and three equal parts of government philosophy.”

Such a precedent in authority could even lead to the point of the governor controlling prosecutions of overtly political cases, steering them to friendly prosecutors, he cautioned.

The group of judicial and prosecutorial officials intends to file their brief supporting Ayala in the Florida Supreme Court case, arguing that the traditional concept of prosecutorial independence is at stake, not just in Florida but nationally.

“The Florida Constitution establishes a decentralized prosecutorial system, which ensures that prosecutorial decisions will be made at the local level without interference from statewide officials,” the brief argues. Scott’s intervention, it charges, “usurps the will of Florida voters and the interests of justice.”

Written by Verrilli, former United States solicitor general under President Barack Obama and now a partner in Munger, Tolles & Olson in Washington D.C., the brief argues that Ayala has the discretion to decide whether to ever seek a death sentence and to establish an office policy on the matter.

It states, “Across the country, prosecutors routinely exercise their discretion by articulating a general policy regarding charging, diversion, sentencing, and enforcement priorities.”

The brief cites relevant policies created by head prosecutors in jurisdictions across the country, including Oregon, New York, and Chicago.

Oscar Braynon, four other Democrats, set to file in support of Aramis Ayala

Five Democratic lawmakers led by Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon are preparing to file a brief with the Florida Supreme Court in support of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala in her effort to challenge Gov. Rick Scott‘s power to take cases away from her.

Braynon, state Sens. Jeff Clemens, Perry Thurston, and Gary Farmer, and state Rep. Sean Shaw all filed a request Thursday with the Supreme Court to enter an amicus brief supporting Ayala and opposing Scott. The court quickly approved it.

Braynon is from Miami Gardens; Clemens, Lake Worth; Thurston and Farmer from Fort Lauderdale and Shaw from Tampa.

They explicitly stated in their friend-of-the-court brief would “provide an alternative perspective to that of amici Florida House of Representatives.” The Florida House, under the leadership of Speaker Richard Corcoran, also has sought and received court permission to enter an amicus brief, theirs on the side of Scott. That brief has not yet been filed.

The matter involves Ayala’s announcement that she would not pursue death penalty prosecutions, and Scott’s response of signing executive orders to reassign 23 first-degree murder cases from her in the 9th Judicial Circuit to State Attorney Brad King in the 5th Judicial Circuit. Ayala filed a complaint with the Supreme Court last week seeking writ of warrento, seeking to force Scott to prove he has the authority to do so.

The Democratic lawmakers alternative brief, according to the request filed Thursday,  “would address whether Governor Scott acted within the authority provided under Article IV, Section 1, Florida Constitution, and Section 27.14, Florida Statutes, when he issued executive orders that assigned another State Attorney to discharge the duties of the Petitioner Ayala with respect to a specific case or class of cases is whether there is ‘any good and sufficient reason the Governor thinks that the ends of justice would best be served.’ Austin v. State, 310 So. 2d 289, 292 (Fla. 1975).”

The Democrats expect to have their brief filed by Friday.

 

 

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