Florida Supreme Court Archives - Florida Politics

Florida Supreme Court cracking down on judicial campaign misconduct

The Florida Supreme Court has explained why it removed Dana Marie Santino from the Palm Beach County trial bench — and it looks like the days when judges could remain on the bench notwithstanding egregious campaign ethics violations are over.

The high court stripped Santino of office in July amid complaints she’d engaged in ugly, “Donald Trump-like” tactics — as the Palm Beach post put it — against her runoff opponent in a 2016 election to fill a vacancy on the Circuit Court.

The court promised a written ruling later. It landed Friday.

Over two dissents, a court majority declined, in an unsigned ruling, to let Santino off with even a hefty fine. That’s what the court did in a similar case against Escambia County Judge Patricia Kinsey in 2003, imposing a $50,000 penalty.

The court noted that Santino had declared following the election, while under threat of sanction, that her discipline would “probably be a fine” and would be “no big deal.”

“Simply stated, Santino’s conduct does not evidence a present fitness to hold judicial office,” the majority said.

“We refuse to endorse a ‘win-at-all-costs-and-pay-the-fine-later’ strategy, especially in light of our past warnings and stated intolerance for the kinds of campaign violations at issue here. By her own admission, had we imposed a fine as a sanction, it would confirm that Santino’s violations were ‘not a big deal,’ the opinion says.

“Moreover, if this court imposed a suspension, it would send a message to all attorneys campaigning for judicial office that they may commit egregious violations of Canon 7 during their campaigns and, if they win, a suspension or a fine or both will be the only result. They will be allowed to reap the benefits of their misconduct by continuing to serve the citizens of this state.”

The court did take note of “significant mitigation” in the case, including testimonials from colleagues.

Canon 7 spells out judges’ and judicial candidates’ ethical responsibilities. The Judicial Qualifications Commission concluded in March that Santino had violated five sections of the canon, plus Florida Bar rules, during her campaign against Gregg Lerman.

Her Facebook page, for example, said “attorney Gregg Lerman has made a lot of money trying to free Palm Beach County’s worst criminals. Now he’s running for judge!” It also included a photo of Lerman surrounded by words such as “identity theft,” “rape,” “sexual assault,” “pedophiles” and “murder,” according to court records.

“Santino’s numerous statements during her campaign evidenced a bias against criminal defendants, toward whom she imputed guilt; against criminal defense attorneys, whom she implied had some character fault because they ‘choose’ to represent criminal defendants; and in favor of victims, whom she boasted that she worked to protect during her legal career,” the court said.

“Such statements are sufficient to create fear on the behalf of criminal defendants — who are entitled to a presumption of innocence under the basic tenets of our judicial system — that they would not receive a fair trial or hearing.”

Signing the opinion were justices Jorge LabargaAlan LawsonBarbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince. Justice Fred Lewis agreed with the result, but wrote a concurring opinion complaining that the majority hadn’t gone far enough in denouncing Santino’s behavior.

“Today, the majority has chosen to sanitize and soften the facts surrounding the campaign misconduct committed in this case, apparently in the interest of political correctness or for some other reason,” he wrote.

“The circumstances of this case, however, are so egregious and so reprehensible that any attempt to refine them does a disservice to the bench and to our judicial system as a whole, and further diminishes the citizen’s trust in the judiciary beyond what Santino has already inflicted,” he added.

“I simply cannot endorse the sanitized rendition of the facts with the omission of the actual published material along with the analysis the majority adopts,” Lewis continued — and he appended copies of her Facebook page to his opinion.

Lewis complained that the court has been going too easy on such behavior.

He noted that Santino had blamed her campaign adviser for the wrongdoing, but had signed an oath attesting that she was familiar with her ethical duties when, she later conceded, she hadn’t read the case law.

And that she had apologized to her defeated opponent only in the face of an ethics investigation.

Such behavior is “is exactly the behavior that I cautioned would arise” when the court settled for the fine for Kinsey, a case in which he’d dissented from the sanction.

“Now, the court is yet again addressing campaign violations similar to those in cases past,” he wrote.

“Moreover, the campaign violations that Santino committed are the most flagrant to date, and her lack of remorse is the most blatant yet. Thus, I reemphasize this court’s previously stated no-tolerance practice in these situations and conclude that the only result worthy of yet another case involving conduct that ignores our judicial canons on campaign misconduct was removal.”

Justice Ricky Polston wrote a dissent, joined by Chief Justice Charles Canady. He argued that the same precedents that Lewis lamented compelled removal only when campaign misbehavior is married to additional misconduct.

Those precedents included the case of Judge Scott DuPont of the 7th Judicial Circuit, comprising Putnam, Flagler, St. Johns and Volusia counties. The Supreme Court removed him in June for publishing false allegations against his 2016 election challenger and other actions while on the bench.

“Because Judge Santino committed serious campaign misrepresentations without some additional misconduct establishing present unfitness, the recommendation of removal is not the appropriate discipline,” Polston wrote.

Justices OK ‘bundling,’ amendments will go to voters

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared three proposed constitutional amendments for the Nov. 6 ballot, narrowly rejecting a challenge by retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead that they improperly bundled multiple items.

In an unsigned opinion, the majority ruled that the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) was within its authority under state law, and the state and U.S. constitutions, to lump disparate ideas into what became Amendments 7, 9, and 11.

The vote was 4-3.

Such “logrolling” is improper when done by the Legislature or citizen initiative. But the CRC process “embodies adequate safeguards to protect against logrolling and deception,” the opinion says.

Anstead and fellow plaintiff Robert Barnas, a former state elections commissioner, had argued such bundling violates voters’ First Amendment right “to cast a meaningful vote on each independent and unrelated proposal.” The majority said that was “a novel theory with no apparent support in the law.”

— Amendment 7 would grant death benefits and waive some educational expenses for survivors of military personnel and first responders; require supermajorities among university overseers to raise fees; and establish the state college system as a constitutional entity.

— Amendment 9 would ban both drilling for oil and natural gas in state waters and using vaping devices in indoor workplaces.

— Amendment 11 mixes elimination of a ban on owning property by aliens ineligible for citizenship with a prohibition on retroactive application of changes in the criminal law.

(A summary of the amendments is here.)

Chief Justice Charles Canady signed the majority opinion, as did justices Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, and Ricky Polston. Canady, Lawson and Polston are considered the court’s conservative contingent.

Of the three more liberal-leaning members, Justice Barbara Pariente wrote an opinion, joined by Justices R. Fred Lewis and Peggy A. Quince, concurring with the result on procedural ground but disagreeing with the majority on substance.

“Voters beware!” Pariente wrote, pointing to “the obvious dangers of logrolling — combining popular and unpopular proposals into a single proposal — even by the CRC.”

She dismissed the purported CRC anti-logrolling safeguards, noting that the actual bundling occurred after public hearings had closed.

“The bottom line is that the ultimate authority to amend the Constitution rests with the voters in this state,” Pariente wrote.

“By bundling multiple, independent and unrelated proposals, combining ‘popular’ amendments with controversial amendments on the ballot, the CRC makes it more difficult for voters to intelligently exercise their right to vote.

“Indeed, in some cases, bundling prohibits voters from exercising this right altogether because it forces them to reject proposals they would otherwise approve because they disapprove of another unrelated controversial proposal,” she added.

Environmental organizations praised the ruling’s application to Amendment 9.

“Tourism is Florida’s biggest industry, and drilling is just not worth the risk,” said Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

“Drilling is dirty business. Thousands of oil spills happen every year in U.S. waters, and increasingly intense hurricanes add to the risk of oil spills,” she said.

“While there is currently a ban for near-shore drilling in Florida’s waters, state lawmakers could easily lift that, and they tried before,” executive director Stephen Smith said.

“Florida needs this constitutional amendment to ensure long-term protection of the state’s coasts, including its beautiful beaches and marine life, which help drive the state’s robust tourism economy.”

Joe Henderson: Supreme Court ruling brings out Mini-Me in Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis hasn’t mentioned President Donald Trump much now that the general election for Florida Governor is getting closer, but that might change after Monday’s stinging slap by the Florida Supreme Court at Gov. Rick Scott.

After lawsuits by the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause, the state’s highest court ruled that Scott cannot nominate replacements for three justices set to retire at midnight on Jan. 8, 2019 — the same day Scott vacates the Governor’s Mansion and the winner of the gubernatorial race between DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum moves in.

The new guy gets to choose.

Those are the rules, darn the luck.

When in doubt, break out the boogeyman. That’s straight out of Trump’s playbook and Ron DeSantis put on his best Mini-Me imitation after the ruling by quickly tweeting Gillum would be pressured by “out-of-state, radical groups” to appoint “activist judges” who would “legislate from the bench to fit their own ideology.”

First off, that ignores the Judicial Nominating Committee, which will present the new Governor a list of candidates from which he must choose. As the Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday, the JNC — which is top-loaded with Scott appointees — stays on into the new year. That bunch is unlikely to care what Gillum or “out-of-state, radical groups” would want. Gillum would have little or no say in the matter.

For now, though, let’s roll with the idea of legislating from the bench — a pet phrase of Republicans, and one that DeSantis just invoked.

I assume  “radical” would be defined by any ruling with which he disagrees.

Or, does he mean the current Supreme Court ruling that declared, “Governor Scott exceeded his authority by directing the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission submit its nominations to fill these vacancies by November 10, 2018” was legislating from the bench?

By his logic, I guess so.

That is, of course, opposed to the good ol’ American conservative judges DeSantis would favor. He is implying they would be more inclined to see things through a Republican lens.

Would such judges have allowed Scott to pack the Court with conservatives just as he was leaving office? Is that what DeSantis is saying should have happened?

But … but … that violated state law. It would have been wrong.

The ruling sort of blows a hole in the theory that only conservative judges follow the law while those pesky liberals make it up as they go along while humming Taylor Swift tunes.

It’s the same fear-and-smear tactic Trump used to push the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, though. Anyone who opposed him, the president declared, and his supporters parroted, was part of a “liberal mob” — which, I guess, makes the National Council of Churches part of that vast left-wing rabble because that group opposed Kavanaugh.

Republican animosity against the Florida Supreme Court has been going on for many years.

In 2012, for instance, the state GOP launched an unprecedented campaign against justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince – the same three who are being forced into retirement at the end of this year because of age limits.

Why?

One reason they were so mad was that the court ruled against allowing a referendum against Obamacare to go on the statewide ballot because the language was misleading (it was later rewritten).

This was after Republicans tried, and failed, to expand the court to 10 so Scott could pick three additional members.

In 2016, the Court struck down Florida’s death penalty provision that said capital punishment could be imposed with only a majority of 12 jurors voted in favor. When the state reworked the law to make it 10 out 12 the Court said nope, it had to be unanimous.

The ruling party doesn’t like to be told no.

With Republicans controlling both houses of the Legislature and the Governor’s mansion for the last 20 years, the Supreme Court often is the firewall between a Republican lawmaking rampage that ignores the other half of the state that might think differently.

So, yeah, the Court is going to get a makeover, and it may not matter much who wins the Governor’s race.

But what the heck. Scare ’em anyway, right?

Supreme Court rules Rick Scott can’t name 3 new justices

The state’s Supreme Court ruled Monday that outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott cannot appoint replacements for the court’s three upcoming vacancies.

“The governor who is elected in the November 2018 general election (most likely Democrat Andrew Gillum or Republican Ron DeSantis) has the sole authority to fill the vacancies that will be created by the mandatory retirement of Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince,” the court’s one-page unsigned order said.

Two progressive groups, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, had filed suit against Scott. They sought to block his nominations; he’s said he would have picked conservative jurists.

Scott

The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the state’s highest court: Pariente, Lewis, and Quince are regarded as the liberal-leaning contingent; Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson are the conservatives. Justice Jorge Labarga is often a swing vote.

The court’s ruling suggested they bought into the group’s argument that Scott shouldn’t be able to replace the outgoing justices because their terms don’t end till the last minute of Jan. 7, his last day in office, but the new governor will be sworn in earlier that morning.

Its order was contingent on the fact that the three justices “do not leave prior to the expiration of their terms at midnight between Jan. 7 and Jan. 8, 2019, and provided that the (next) governor takes office immediately upon the beginning of his term.”

“The people will have a very important say in this matter, especially because both candidates have staked out very different positions on the kinds of people they are looking to appoint to the court,” said John Mills, attorney for the plaintiffs, in a statement.

“Andrew Gillum has said he will ‘appoint diverse, qualified judges who represent the breadth and depth of people in this state,’ ” he added. “Ron DeSantis has said he will ‘appoint constitutional conservatives’ who will be very different from the retiring justices, who he characterizes as ‘liberal’ and accuses of ‘legislating from the bench for the past 20 years.’ Voters now have the opportunity to factor these positions into their choice for governor.”

Further, the court found that Scott “exceeded his authority by directing the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (‘the JNC’) to submit its nominations to fill these vacancies” by Nov. 10.

That panel was planning on interviewing all 59 applicants for the three vacancies on Nov. 3 and 4 in Miami, and Nov. 8 and 9 in Tampa. (One of those applicants, Jeff Burns, later on Monday sued to disqualify Pariente, Lewis and Quince from the case for an “objective economic conflict of interest.”)

The 60-day period “after nominations have been certified within which the governor is required to make appointments, as set forth in … the Florida Constitution begins to run only when the governor with the authority to appoint has taken office,” the court said. “As the JNC is an independent body, it is not bound by Gov. Scott’s deadlines.”

The court also set oral argument for Nov. 8 on “the issue of when the JNC can certify its nominations.”

In recent weeks, Scott tried to defuse the litigation by offering to confer with his successor on candidates, taking a page from the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, who reached a similar accord with incoming Republican Jeb Bush in 1998. Quince is the last justice appointed through such consultations.

Geoff Burgan, then the campaign communications director for Gillum, spurned the offer, saying: “In our understanding of the Constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

In a statement later Monday, Gillum said he was “pleased the … Court has brought closure to this important issue, finding — as we have consistently stated — that the next Governor of Florida will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.

“It is a duty I take extremely seriously and, as Governor, one of my top priorities will be to restore integrity to the judicial nominating process,” he added.

DeSantis tweeted: “If (Gillum) is elected, out-of-state, radical groups would pressure him to appoint activist judges who would legislate from the bench to fit their own ideology. The consequences would be dangerous and felt for generations.

“I promise to only appoint judges who will uphold the Constitution and follow the law as it is written. We must secure Florida’s future.”

Scott, a Naples Republican who is term-limited as Governor, now is running to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, first elected in 2000.

The present suit had been first filed last year but the court said it couldn’t step into the controversy then because the Governor hadn’t taken any action yet.

In that decision, Labarga joined with the court’s conservatives. Pariente and Quince concurred, but Lewis dissented and called Scott’s proposed actions “blatantly unconstitutional.”

The court’s Monday decision also means the court could be short on justices for a while: The nominating and appointment process can take as long as four months, including background screening and reviews of The Florida Bar’s disciplinary records.

And the court itself tweaked its own rules last year regarding how and when retired justices can serve as “senior justices.”

A controversy erupted when then-Chief Justice Labarga allowed retired Justice James E.C. Perry to finish work on opinions, following decades of court practice. This was after Lawson, a Scott appointee, replaced Perry.

Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran 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.

Interviews scheduled for state Supreme Court vacancies

A review panel announced Friday it had decided to interview all 59 applicants for three upcoming Florida Supreme Court vacancies.

The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) will meet Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 in Miami, and again Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 in Tampa.

“This schedule will position the Florida Supreme Court JNC to certify nominations at the earliest on Nov. 10 or sometime thereafter to give the Governor and Governor-elect ample time to do their vetting and minimize the time that these three judicial vacancies remain unfilled,” a press release said. 

The South Florida interviews will take place at the Miami International Airport Hotel; the Tampa interviews will be held at the Airport Executive Center. 

Each interview will last about a half hour. The schedule for individual candidates is here

Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince face mandatory retirement on the same day that term-limited Gov. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican, leaves office. He is now running against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate.

The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the state’s highest court: Pariente, Lewis, and Quince are regarded as the liberal-leaning contingent; Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson are the conservatives. Justice Jorge Labarga is often a swing vote.

Progressive groups have renewed a lawsuit against Scott, however, saying the outgoing governor doesn’t have the authority to appoint three new justices.

Scott has said he would agree to confer with the next governor-elect on the three justices. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is the Democratic nominee; Ponte Vedra Beach congressman Ron DeSantis is the GOP nominee.

Quince was the last justice to be appointed that way in 1998, and was the consensus candidate of then Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, and Gov.-elect Jeb Bush, a Republican.

A Gillum spokesman has all but spurned the idea, saying that “in our understanding of the constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

Scott said he will announce the new justices on Jan. 7, his last day in office, which coincides with the outgoing justices’ retirement date.

Florida Supreme Court openings get dozens of applications

Despite a looming legal challenge, nearly 60 people have applied for three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court, including Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s former chief of staff.

Carlos Muniz, now the general counsel to the U.S. Department of Education, was on a list of names provided to Florida Politics by Gov. Rick Scott‘s office on Monday evening after a public record request.

Also on the list is Hillsborough Circuit Judge Laurel Lee, wife of state Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican. She was appointed by Scott in May 2013, and many of the other judges who applied are Scott appointees.

Polk Circuit Judge John Stargel, a former Republican state Representative, also has applied. He’s the husband of state Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican.

Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince face mandatory retirement on the same day that the term-limited Scott, a Naples Republican, leaves office. He is now running against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate.

The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the state’s highest court: Pariente, Lewis, and Quince are regarded as the liberal-leaning contingent; Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson are the conservatives. Justice Jorge Labarga is often a swing vote.

Progressive groups have renewed a lawsuit against Scott, however, saying the outgoing governor doesn’t have the authority to appoint three new justices.

Daniel Nordby, Scott’s general counsel, said in an email he had received the applications, due 5 p.m. Monday, from the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC).

The applications themselves were unavailable because the governor’s legal office still must redact them for confidential information, he said.

“As a result of the hurricane and some email bounce-backs, it is possible that the final list may include an additional name or two,” he said. “At least one of the three appointees must be a resident of the 3rd Appellate District (Miami-Dade and Monroe counties), so those applicants are listed separately.”

The other two seats are at-large. The JNC next must decide which applicants to interview.

Under the state constitution, judges and justices face mandatory retirement at age 70. In Florida, judicial vacancies are filled by appointment by the Governor, from a list of applicants vetted and submitted by judicial nominating panels.

Scott has said he would agree to confer with the next governor-elect on the three justices. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is the Democratic nominee; Ponte Vedra Beach congressman Ron DeSantis is the GOP nominee.

Quince was the last justice to be appointed that way in 1998, and was the consensus candidate of then Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, and Gov.-elect Jeb Bush, a Republican.

A Gillum spokesman has all but spurned the idea, saying that “in our understanding of the constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

Scott said he will announce the new justices on Jan. 7, his last day in office, which coincides with their retirement date.

Scott’s insistence on replacing the three spurred a legal challenge last year by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, who revived their suit last month. The progressive organization’s implied concern was that Scott would pack the court with more conservatives.

In a 6-1 decision, the Supreme Court said in December that it couldn’t step into the controversy because the Governor hadn’t taken any action yet.

The lone dissenter? Lewis, who said Scott’s plan to make the appointments on his way out the door was “blatantly unconstitutional.”

The full list of applicants and their current positions is below.

__

Residents of 3rd Appellate District

Judge Alex Bokor (Miami-Dade County)

Amy Brigham Boulris (Gunster Law Firm)

John Couriel (Kobre & Kim)

Edward Guedes (Weiss Serota Cole & Bierman)

Judge Barbara Lagoa (3rd District Court of Appeal [DCA])

Judge Norma Lindsey (3rd DCA)

Judge Robert Luck (3rd DCA)

Hayden O’Byrne (K&L Gates)

Judge Ed Scales (3rd DCA)

Judge William Thomas (11th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Daryl Trawick (11th Judicial Circuit)

__

Non-residents of 3rd Appellate District

Judge Michael Andrews (6th Judicial Circuit)

Judge J. Andrew Atkinson (2nd DCA)

Judge Ross Bilbrey (1st DCA)

Judge-Elect Jeffrey Burns (Anchors Smith Grimsley/1st Judicial Circuit)

Judge Hunter Carroll (12th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Howard Coates (15th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Angela Cowden (10th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Cynthia Cox (19th Judicial Circuit)

Judge James Daniel (4th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Scott Duncan (1st Judicial Circuit)

Manuel Farach (McGlinchey Stafford)

Judge Jonathan Gerber (4th DCA)

Bryan Gowdy (Creed & Gowdy)

Judge Jamie Grosshans (5th DCA)

Judge Bradley Harper (Palm Beach County)

Judge Terrance Ketchel (1st Judicial Circuit)

Judge Mark Klingensmith (4th DCA)

Judge Jeffrey Kuntz (4th DCA)

Judge Bruce Kyle (20th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Laurel Lee (13th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Robert Long (2nd Judicial Circuit)

Judge Scott Makar (1st DCA)

Judge Mark Mahon (4th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Michael McDaniel (10th Judicial Circuit)

Mark Miller (Pacific Legal Foundation)

Carlos Muniz (U.S. Department of Education)

Judge Timothy Osterhaus (1st DCA)

Judge Tom Ramsberger (6th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Eric Roberson (4th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Clay Roberts (1st DCA)

Judge William Roby (19th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Cymonie Rowe (15th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Samuel Salario (2nd DCA)

Judge Tatiana Salvador (4th Judicial Circuit)

Leonard Samuels (Berger Singerman)

Stephen Senn (Peterson & Myers)

Judge Raag Singhal (17th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Pat Siracusa (6th Judicial Circuit)

Chief Judge Jonathan Sjostrom (2nd Judicial Circuit)

Judge Elijah Smiley (14th Judicial Circuit)

Donna Solomon (Solomon Appeals, Mediation, & Arbitration)

Judge Adrian Soud (4th Judicial Circuit)

Judge John Stargel (10th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Anthony Tatti (5th Judicial Circuit)

Matthew Thatcher (The Solomon Law Group)

Judge M. Kemmerly Thomas (1st DCA)

Judge Waddell Wallace (4th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Bo Winokur (1st DCA)

__

Capital correspondent Michael Moline and The News Service of Florida contributed to this post, republished with permission.

Florida Supreme Court

Supreme Court, lower courts shutting down

The Florida Supreme Court and other courts in the potential path of Hurricane Michael are planning to shut down until the storm passes.

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it and the Office of the State Courts Administrator in Tallahassee will be closed from Tuesday through Thursday.

Similarly, the Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeal will be closed for the three days.

Numerous courts in Northwest Florida and Big Bend counties also will close as the hurricane nears.

Some will close Tuesday, while others will close Wednesday, according to a list on the Supreme Court website. Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall in the region in the middle of the week.

Justices give the boot to appeal over late campaign paperwork

A deadline is a deadline, the Florida Supreme Court said Tuesday.

The justices rejected a law professor’s arguments that she should have been allowed on the ballot in a judicial election — even though she missed the deadline for filing her campaign paperwork.

The court appeared to accept arguments raised by incumbent Clay County Judge Kristina Mobley that Lucy Ann Hoover’s case was unworthy of consideration.

That’s because it didn’t affect a “class of constitutional or statewide officers,” but only Hoover herself.

“No motion for rehearing will be entertained by the court,” the justices said. Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Alan LawsonBarbara Pariente, Ricky Polston, and Peggy Quince signed the order.

Earlier, the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected Hoover’s bid for a place on the Aug. 28 primary ballot, finding “no special circumstance” that would justify her failure to file her candidate oath and financial disclosure form ahead of the noon, May 4, deadline.

The county supervisor of elections initially accepted Hoover’s paperwork, even though it was late, reasoning that she was physically in the office and filling out the paperwork.

However, Mobley, placed on the bench by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015, challenged Hoover’s candidacy. Hoover is a visiting professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of North Florida.

The Florida Constitution requires the Supreme Court to review certain cases, including the imposition of the death penalty. It gives the court discretion to take up other types of cases, including matters of “great public importance” and those involving the class of officers at issue in this case.

“There is nothing in the written opinion of the 1st District Court to trigger such jurisdiction,” attorneys for Mobley argued in a brief filed Sept. 13.

“Even if the court accepted petitioner’s position that (the relevant constitutional provision) applies, the court should not exercise its discretionary jurisdiction because the case is simply about a candidate who failed to qualify on time, and — likely for that reason — the only potentially affected constitutional officer in this case, the Clay County Supervisor of Elections, did not appeal,” the brief says.

Alyssa Milano campaigning for Andrew Gillum

Actress and activist Alyssa Milano, a day after capturing press attention at Brett Kananaugh‘s confirmation hearings, will campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in Florida.

The “Charmed” star will speak at a grassroots rally in Hollywood (the one in Florida), where she plans to discuss women’s healthcare and highlight Gillum’s plans to expand healthcare access in the Sunshine State. She will speak at Hollywood Vine at 4 p.m.

On Twitter, Milano said she’d spend the day volunteering for Gillum’s campaign.

The actress in recent years embraced a political role in feminist politics, particularly as part of the #MeToo movement.

While Milano didn’t coin the phrase, the moniker of the movement largely got popularized thanks to Milano tweeting the two words in October 2017, just as the Harvey Weinstein scandal consumed the film industry.

More recently, Milano could be seen in attendance at the Supreme Court confirmation proceedings in Washington, D.C.

She attended testimony by associate justice nominee Kavanaugh and by Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a party while both were in high school.

“I wasn’t there with any political agenda,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “I was there to support a survivor of sexual assault.”

Milano attended the hearings as a guest of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The Gillum campaign says Milano will also touch on the make-up of the Florida Supreme Court today. Three state justices must retire in January, and outgoing Gov. Rick Scott remains engaged in ongoing litigation with the League of Women Voters and Common Cause over who should appoint replacements.

The actress currently stars in Insatiable, a new comedy on Netflix.

But she’s also increasingly active in Democratic politics. According to Open Secrets, the actress this election cycle donated money to Democrats around the country running for Congress, including Harley Rouda, Brianna Westbrook, Conor Lamb and Jon Ossoff, who ran unsuccessfully last year in a Georgia special election.

She’s also supported Ayanna Pressley, who this month upset incumbent Massachusetts congressman Michael Capuano in a Democratic primary.

Amendment 13 backer calls claim that dog racing ban could threaten hunting ‘outrageous, false’

A backer of the Nov. 6 ballot issue to ban greyhound racing in Florida called an opponent’s statement outrageous, false, and fully-refuted by the Florida Supreme Court after the NRA Political Victory Fund circulated a warning Tuesday that Amendment 13 could one day threaten hunting and fishing rights.

Carey Theil, senior advisor for the Yes on 13 campaign, was replying Tuesday to the alert put out by Marion Hammer, past president of the NRA and executive director of the United Sportsmen of Florida. Her alert to members charged that the amendment’s language declaring “the humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida” could lead “extreme animal rights organizations” to “immediately begin work to ban all hunting and fishing.”

“Those groups even claim that animals shouldn’t be owned as pets because it’s inhumane. In short, Amendment 13 is not really about greyhound racing, it’s a front for much more,” Hammer wrote in her alert to the USF and NRA members and friends mailing list. The alert was then circulated Tuesday by opponents of Amendment 13.

Theil responded that the claims are outrageous, fear-mongering, and false, that the amendment is entirely and exclusively about greyhound racing, and that the Florida Supreme Court has agreed with that after hearing similar assertions in court hearings and filings challenging the amendment this summer.

He said claims such as Hammer’s contention that hunting and fishing were at risk were explicitly refuted earlier this month in the Florida Supreme Court decision to allow Amendment 13 on the ballot, when the court wrote that amendment value provisions such as the one she cited have no force of law.  “Amendment 13’s fundamental value provision is devoid of any legislative or judicial mandate: it bestows no rights, imposes no duties, and does not empower the Legislature to take any action,” the court wrote.

“It’s now clear that opponents of Amendment 13 are incapable of debating the merits of commercial dog racing. In recent days, they have started to circulate a series of falsehoods,” Theil said in a written response.

Jack Corey, spokesman for opponents of Amendment 13, notably the spokesperson for the Florida Greyhound Association, replied that the Supreme Court decision is only the opinion of the current court. He asserted it could be changed after a new court, with new members, takes office.

Corey also said he welcomed support from the NRA or “any organization in the state of Florida.” He also charged that the amendment was being pushed by out-of-state political action committees, largely connected with the Massachusetts group GREY2K USA, for which Theil also serves as executive director.

Amendment 13 backers have made the same charge about the Amendment 13 opponents’ Committee to Support Greyhounds, contending that its chair lives in Texas and its treasurer in North Carolina.

Amendment 13, placed on the ballot by the 2017-’18 Constitution Revision Commission, would outlaw the racing of dogs and wagering on such races. Amendments need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

Corey added that he considered the Supreme Court’s statement to be moot, considering he expects the question to lose in the Nov. 6 ballot.

The proposal also would allow other gambling at tracks, such as card games, to continue even after dog racing ends.

If approved, the amendment takes effect immediately but allows greyhound racing to continue through the end of the year 2020.

In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons