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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the postconviction court granting in part and denying in part Appellant’s motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and his sentence of death, holding that the postconviction court did not err in denying Appellant's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to move to an improper comment made during closing argument and failing to move for a mistrial. After the Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction and death sentence, Appellant filed his initial motion for postconviction relief. The postconviction court found that Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase based on Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) . The postconviction court then held an evidentiary hearing on Appellant’s claims premised upon allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and denied the claims. Appellant appealed the denial of his claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to an improper comment made during the State’s closing argument and failing to move for a mistrial. The Supreme Court held that the postconviction court did not err in denying this claim. View "Brown v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s summary denial of Appellant’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that the postconviction court properly denied the claims. Appellant was sentenced to death for the murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings. Appellant filed an amended motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, which included a claim for relief pursuant to Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The postconviction court summarily denied relief on Appellant's ineffective assistance of counsel claims but granted a new penalty phase based on his Hurst claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the record positively refuted Appellant’s claim ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to renew his motion for change of venue; and (2) the postconviction court properly denied Appellant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to challenge the indictment as legally insufficient. View "Gonzalez v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court validating the ballot title and summary of a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution (Amendment 10), holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Amendment 10 should be included on the November 2018 ballot. Plaintiffs argued that the ballot title and summary of Amendment 10 mislead voters by failing sufficiently to describe Amendment 10’s chief purpose. The circuit court granted final summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that the ballot language would enable the average voter to understand the primary effect of Amendment 10. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ballot language was not misleading in any of the ways advanced by Plaintiffs. View "County of Volusia v. Detzner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court holding that the ballot title and summary of a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution (Amendment 13) were clearly and conclusively defective, vacated the injunction forbidding Amendment 13 from appearing on the November 2018 general election ballot, and ordered that Amendment 13 appear on the ballot for the November 2018 general election ballot. Specifically, the Court held (1) Amendment 13’s ballot language is not clearly and conclusively defective for failing to inform voters of Amendment’s fundamental value provision; (2) the ballot language does not misstate the effect of Amendment 13; and (3) the ballot language does not mislead voters with respect to Amendment 13’s scope. View "Department of State v. Florida Greyhound Ass’n" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

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In this dispute between the former record owners of certain real property and a subordinate lienholder over surplus funds resulting from a judicial foreclosure sale of the property, the Supreme Court held that the statutory requirement that a claim to surplus funds be filed within sixty days after the sale begins upon the clerk’s issuance of the certificate of disbursements. The crux of this dispute was whether the subordinate lien holder timely filed its claim to the surplus amount under chapter 45 of the Florida Statutes, which governs judicial sales. Specifically, the parties argued over whether the sixty-day period begins upon the public auction of the property, the clerk’s issuance of the certificate of title, or some other event. The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that the subordinate lienholder’s claim was untimely because it was not filed within sixty days of the public auction. The Supreme Court quashed the Second District’s decision, holding (1) the meaning of “60 days after the sale” as used in chapter 45 in the context of claims to surplus funds is sixty days after the clerk issues the certificate of disbursements; and (2) therefore, the subordinate lienholder’s claim to the surplus was timely filed before the expiration of that sixty-day period. View "Bank of New York Mellon v. Glenville" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over whether the trial court properly allowed a witness's identification testimony during a criminal trial, the Supreme Court held that a witness who identifies a defendant’s voice can establish a prior special familiarity with the defendant’s voice at any time prior to trial. On appeal from his conviction of conspiracy to traffic in cocaine Defendant argued that the trial court erred in allowing a witness’s identification testimony because the witness lacked the prior special familiarity to identify Defendant’s voice on phone calls recorded during an ongoing investigation under Evans v. State, 177 So. 3d 1219 (Fla. 2015). The Fifth District Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the identification testimony met the requirements under Evans because the witness both possessed a prior special familiarity with Defendant’s voice and was a witness who heard the crime. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because allowing voice identification testimony that was acquired during an ongoing investigation is consistent with aiding the jury, this Court now recedes from Evans; and (2) the trial court properly allowed the witness to identify Defendant’s voice on the recorded calls. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this wrongful death medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court quashed the decision of the First District Court of Appeal affirming the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s action and remanded with instructions to reinstate Plaintiff’s complaint, holding that the trial court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint where the record established that Plaintiff’s presuit expert was qualified and that Defendants did not suffer prejudice for any alleged noncompliance with discovery. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) where the facts regarding a presuit expert’s qualifications are unrelated, the proper standard of review of a trial court’s dismissal of a medical malpractice action based on its determination that the plaintiff’s presuit expert witness was not qualified is de novo; (2) before a medical malpractice action can be dismissed based on a trial court’s finding that the plaintiff or plaintiff’s counsel failed to comply with the informal presuit discovery process for medical malpractice actions, the trial court must find that such noncompliance prejudiced the defendant; and (3) Plaintiff’s presuit medical expert in this case clearly met the statutory requirements for medical experts, and Plaintiff complied with the necessary discovery. View "Morris v. Muniz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court concluded that Judge Scott C. DuPont of the Seventh Judicial Circuit violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and that those violations warranted the most severe sanction of removal from office. The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) recommended that DuPont be removed from office by disseminating false and misleading information during his judicial campaign and conducting an unlawful judicially ordered seizure in open court. The Supreme Court approved the JQC’s recommendation of removal and removed Judge DuPont from office, holding that Judge DuPont demonstrated a present unfitness to hold office. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Scott C. DuPont" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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In this case before the Supreme Court on Petitioner’s pro se petition for a writ of mandamus, the Court found that Petitioner failed to show cause why he should not be barred from filing further pro se requests for relief in the Court related to certain cases and sanctioned him accordingly. Since May 2017, Petitioner filed forty-two petitions or notices with the Court. After the Court dismissed Petitioner’s instant petition, the Court expressly retained jurisdiction and ordered Petitioner to show cause why he should not be barred from filing further pro se requests for relief. The Court then found that Petitioner has demonstrated a pattern of vexatious filing of meritless pro se requests for relief and abused the Court’s limited judicial resources. Accordingly, the Court directed the clerk of court to reject any future pleadings or other requests for relief submitted by Petitioner related to certain case numbers, unless such filings are signed by a member in good standing of The Florida Bar. View "Raghubir v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was whether, when a juvenile offender is entitled to a sentence review hearing, the trial court is required to review the aggregate sentence that the juvenile is serving from the same sentencing proceeding in determining whether to modify the juvenile’s sentence based upon demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. The Fifth District Court of Appeal held a trial court is required to review a juvenile offender’s aggregate sentence at a statutorily required sentence review hearing in order to determine whether the modify the overall sentence based on maturity and rehabilitation. The Supreme Court quashed the Fifth District’s decision, holding that the plain language of the juvenile sentencing statutes does not provide for aggregation of sentences at judicial sentence review. View "State v. Purdy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law