Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District on the issue of whether a defendant is entitled to a de novo sentencing proceeding after an appellate court determines that the trial court's initial downward departure sentence was not supported by legally sufficient findings, holding that the proper remedy upon reversal of a sentence due to the invalidity of a downward departure is resentencing de novo. Defendant pled guilty to four offenses and was placed on probation. The trial court subsequently revoked Defendant's probation and imposed a downward departure from what otherwise would have been the lowest permissible sentence under the Criminal Punishment Code (CPC). The Third District concluded that the departure was invalid and remanded for "resentencing within the sentencing guidelines." The Supreme Court quashed the Third District's decision, holding that on remand for resentencing due to the substantive invalidity of a downward departure, the trial court is permitted to impose a downward departure as long as the departure comports with the principles and criteria of the CPC. View "Shine v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Florida Public Service Commission approving a request made by Florida Power and Light (FPL) for the recovery of costs through base rates for eight solar energy centers (the SoBRA projects), holding that the Commission's findings regarding the cost-effectiveness of the SoBRA projects were based on competent, substantial evidence. In granting FPL's request, the Commission concluded that the SoBRA projects comported with the terms of a settlement agreement providing for recovery of costs through base rates and that the projects were cost effective. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) by failing to object at the time that the settlement agreement was before the Commission and by failing to appeal the settlement order, Appellant waived its right to challenge the provisions in the settlement agreement related to the requirements and procedures for cost recovery of the SoBRA projects; and (2) the SoBRA projects met the terms set forth in the settlement agreement for cost recovery. View "Florida Industrial Power Users Group v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that through persistent filing of nonmeritorious requests for relief, Mark Jackson had abused the judicial process and, accordingly, directed the Clerk of Court to reject any future pleadings, documents, or other requests for relief submitted by Jackson unless such filings were signed by a member in good standing of The Florida Bar. Jackson - a pro se litigant - filed a petition to invoke the Supreme Court's discretionary jurisdiction. The Court denied Jackson's petition but expressly reserved jurisdiction to pursue possible sanctions against him. While the case was pending, Jackson filed several motions that were frivolous, without merit, or sought relief previously denied. The Supreme Court concluded that a sanction was necessary because, if not restrained, Jackson would continue to burden the Court with frivolous and meritless filings. View "Jackson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court ordered that the Clerk of Court reject any future pleadings, petitions, motions, documents, or other filings submitted by Larry R. Wetzel that were related to his criminal case, holding that that Wetzel has abused the judicial process and burdened the Court's limited judicial resources. Wetzel was charged with five counts of filing a false statement against real or personal property. Wetzel filed five pro se petitions with the Supreme Court seeking relief related to those criminal charges, each of which was accompanied by a plethora of rambling documents. Two of the petitions were voluntarily dismissed by Wetzel but the remainder were dismissed as unauthorized. Based on Wetzel's vexatious filing history, the Supreme Court issued an order directing him to show cause why he should not be prohibited from filing any further pro se documents in the Court related to his criminal case. Upon consideration of Wetzel's response, the Supreme Court concluded that he failed to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed. View "Wetzel v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court's order denying Appellant's third successive motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that the postconviction court did not err in denying relief. Appellant pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping, and sexual battery and was sentenced to death. Appellant filed his current challenge to his death sentence - his third successive under Rule 3.851 - after the governor signed his death warrant. The postconviction court denied his motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the postconviction court did not err in (1) summarily denying Appellant's newly discovered evidence claim; (2) denying Appellant's challenges to Florida's lethal injection protocol; (3) summarily denying Appellant's claim that adding his execution to the more than thirty years he has spent on death row constitutes cruel and unusual punishment; and (4) denying the remainder of Appellant's claims. View "Long v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court sanctioned Larry Barber by directing the Clerk of Court to reject any future pleadings or other requests for relief submitted by Barber that were related to a certain criminal case unless such filings were signed by a member in good standing of The Florida Bar, holding that Barber failed to show cause why he should not be barred. Barber pro se filed fifteen petitions or notices with the Supreme Court since February 13, 1998. On December 19, 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed Barber's petition for a writ of prohibition, expressly retained jurisdiction, and ordered Barber to show cause why he should not be barred from filing further pro se requests for relief in the Court related to his criminal case. The Court then found that Barber failed to show cause why he should not be barred because, through his extensive history of filing pro se petitions and requests for relief that were meritless or otherwise inappropriate for review, Barber abused this Court's limited judicial resources. View "Barber v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) allowing the Florida Power and Light Company (FPL) to recover certain environmental compliance costs from ratepayers pursuant to Fla. Stat. 366.8255, known as the Environmental Cost Recovery Clause, holding that the PSC's findings were supported by competent, substantial evidence. On appeal, the Citizens of the state of Florida, the Office of Public Counsel argued, among other things, that section 366.8255 limits cost recovery to costs incurred in preventing future environmental harm. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because of the nature of the environmental harm at issue in this case, prevention and remediation were inextricably intertwined, and therefore OPC's reading of section 366.8255(1)(c) is rejected; and (2) the PSC did not err when it determined the costs of a consent order and consent agreement were within the scope of a 2009 monitoring plan, for which the PSC had previously approved recovery. View "Citizens of State of Florida v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing Scott Israel's petition for writ of quo warranto challenging Governor Ron DeSantis's authority to suspend him from office in an executive order, holding that the Governor satisfied the constitutional requirements set forth in Fla. Const. art. IV, 7(a) and had the authority to suspend Israel from the office of Sheriff of Broward County. Following Israel's reelection, two mass shootings occurred during Israel's term in office, including the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On January 2, 2019, Governor DeSantis issued an executive order suspending Israel from office, alleging that certain actions by Israel constituted neglect of duty and incompetence. Israel filed a petition for writ of quo warranto asserting that Governor DeSantis exceeded his constitutional authority when suspending Israel. The circuit court dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the executive order suspending Israel alleged facts sufficient to support the suspension on the stated grounds. View "Israel v. DeSantis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the findings and recommendation of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) concerning misconduct by Judge Ernest Kollra of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit and a stipulation entered into by Judge Kollra and the JQC, approved the parties' stipulation, and commanded Judge Kollra to appear before the Court for the administration of a public reprimand. The parties entered into a stipulation that Judge Kollra improperly introduced partisan political activity into his campaign for judicial office, that Judge Kollra's conduct violated two canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and that the appropriate discipline was a public reprimand. The Supreme Court concluded that the JQC's findings were supported by clear and convincing evidence and approved the stipulation, holding that the appropriate discipline in this case was a public reprimand. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Ernest A. Kollra" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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The Supreme Court granted Respondents' joint motion to recall mandate, withdrew its opinion dated January 4, 2019, and substituted this opinion in its place, holding that the Fifth District Court of Appeal properly affirmed a trial court judgment invalidating an Orange County ordinance because home-rule counties may not enact ordinances on subjects preempted to the State and inconsistent with general law. In 2014, the Orange County Board of Commissioners enacted an ordinance proposing an amendment to the Orange County Charter and provided for a ballot question be presented for approval regarding a charter amendment providing for term limits and non-partisan elections for county constitutional officers. The ballot question appeared on the November 4, 2014 ballot and was approved by the majority of Orange County voters. After the underlying county ordinance and ballot title and summary were challenged, the trial court upheld the portion of the charter amendment providing for term limits but struck down that portion providing for nonpartisan elections, concluding that Orange County was prohibited from regulating nonpartisan elections for county constitutional officers because that subject matter was preempted to the Legislature. The Fifth District affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Florida Election Code expressly preempted the Orange County ordinance. View "Orange County v. Singh" on Justia Law