Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The Supreme Court struck in its entirety an amendment to the Hillsborough County Charter adopted in an initiative election that approved a transportation surtax and directives for allocating the tax proceeds, holding that the spending directives were unconstitutional.The charter amendment at issue enacted a one percent transportation sales surtax and included various provisions governing the use and distribution of the tax's proceeds. Here, the Supreme Court reviewed the circuit court's judgment validating the Hillsborough County Commission's authorization of the issuance of bonds to be funded by a portion of the proceeds of the surtax. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court to the extent that it upheld the validity of any portion of the amendment, holding that core provisions of the amendment were inconsistent with the surtax statute and because the invalid provisions and the remaining provisions of the amendment form an interlocking plan, the amendment was unconstitutional in its entirety. View "Emerson v. Hillsborough County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a certified question by holding that a mass shooting committed by Patrick Dell was a single "incident or occurrence" for purposes of Fla. Stat. 768.28(5) and that the cumulative liability for all claims of injury resulting from the incident may not exceed the aggregate cap of $200,000 set forth in section 768.28(5).Dell fatally shot his former wife and four of her children and severely wounded a fifth child. Plaintiffs, the two fathers of the deceased and injured children, sued the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) alleging wrongful death and negligence. The trial court granted partial summary judgment for Plaintiffs and determined that each wrongful death or personal injury claim was eligible for the $100,000 per person and $200,000 per claim limitation found in section 768.28(5). The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the claims arose from the same incident of negligence, and therefore, the $200,000 cap per incident or occurrence applied to limit recovery for all claims. The Supreme Court approved of the court of appeal's result, holding that the claims stemming from the mass shooting of Dell's victims were subject to the $200,000 aggregate cap for damages paid by the State, its agencies, or subdivisions. View "Barnett v. State, Department of Financial Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the petition filed by Representative Geraldine Thompson seeking to invalidate Governor Ron DeSantis's appointment of Judge Renatha Francis to fill a vacancy in office on the Supreme Court, holding that there was no legal justification for the Court to require a replacement appointment from a new list of candidates rather than the one already before the Governor.In her petition, Thompson argued that the Florida Constitution required Judge Francis to have been a member of the Florida Bar for at least ten years at the time of the appointment, which Judge Francis was not. As a remedy, Thompson asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the appointment, require the judicial nominating commission to certify a new list of candidates, and order the Governor to appoint someone from the new list. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding (1) the Governor did not exceed his authority in making the appointment; and (2) the remedy Thompson sought was not legally available under the circumstances, and the correct remedy - an appointment from the existing list of eligible nominees - would be contrary to Thompson's stated objectives in filing this case. View "Thompson v. DeSantis" on Justia 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 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 quashed the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal expressly construing a provision of the Florida Constitution and upheld the validity of an ordinance proposing an amendment to the Orange County Charter with the exception of certain language discussed in this opinion, holding that the language was in direct conflict with Fla. Stat. 100.041.The proposed amendment provided for term limits and non-partisan elections for county constitutional officers. Three Orange County constitutional officers filed a suit for declaratory and injunctive relief against the County challenging the county ordinance. The trial court upheld the portion of the charter amendment providing for term limits but struck down that portion providing for nonpartisan elections. The Fifth District affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below and upheld the validity of the ordinance upon the severance therefrom of offending language requiring the county constitutional officers to be elected during the primary election, holding that the offending language in the amendment for county constitutional officers to be elected on a nonpartisan basis may be stricken without rendering the remainder incomplete. View "Orange County, Florida v. Singh" on Justia Law

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The Florida Public Service Commission applied the correct standard of review in its final order approving a nonunanimous settlement agreement between certain parties relating to the rates or service of a public utility providing electric service. Further, competent, substantial evidence supported the Commission’s decision.At issue was whether the Commission properly applied its public interest standard in considering and approving the settlement. The Supreme Court held (1) the public interest was the appropriate standard to apply, and there was no need for the Commission to make an express individual prudence determination; (2) the final order adequately explained the Commission’s decision; and (3) the Commission’s finding that the settlement agreement was in the public interest was supported by competent, substantial evidence. View "Sierra Club v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this case challenging the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) authority to promulgate rules related to blood collection resulting in blood alcohol test results, along with the sufficiency of rules to produce scientifically reliable results. The Supreme Court answered two questions certified to it by the Fourth District Court of Appeal and approved of the Fourth District’s decision. The Supreme Court held (1) the FDLE’s current rules are not inadequate under State v. Miles, 775 So. 2d 950 (Fla. 2000), for purportedly failing to sufficiently regulate proper blood draw procedures, as well as the homogenization process to “cure” a clotted blood sample; and (2) the present rules are not inadequate for failing to specifically regulate the work of analysts in screening blood samples, documenting irregularities, and rejecting unfit samples. View "Goodman v. Florida Department of Law Enforcement" on Justia Law

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A petition for a writ of habeas corpus is the proper vehicle by which to seek release from close management, which the Florida Administrative Code defines as “the confinement of an inmate apart from the general population.”Defendant, an inmate, was reassigned to a “close management” cousin classification. The Department of Corrections upheld the decision. Defendant then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which the circuit court denied. On appeal, the First District Court of Appeal announced its decision to “recede from prior decisions…allow[ing] [c]lose [m]anagement decisions to be challenged by writ of habeas corpus,” concluding that the appropriate vehicle for challenges to close management assignments was a petition for writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the First District, holding that a petition for a writ of habeas corpus remains the correct mechanism by which to challenge a reassignment. View "Banks v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The ambiguous section of the insurance policy at issue in this case must be construed in favor of coverage for the costs and attorneys’ fees awarded against the insured pursuant to the offer of judgment statute, Fla. Stat. 768.79.Alysia Macedo sued Zackery Lombardo for damages resulting from injuries she sustained in an automobile collision.The jury returned a verdict in favor of Macedo in the amount of $243,954.55. Macedo joined to the judgment GEICO, which provided bodily injury liability coverage to Lombardo. The trial court awarded taxable fees and costs against GEICO jointly and severally with its insured pursuant to section 768.79. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court approved the First District’s decision, holding that the key provision in the insurance policy was ambiguous and must be construed in favor of coverage. View "Government Employees Insurance Co. v. Macedo" on Justia Law