Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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

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At issue in this case was the authority of the City of Miami Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP), an independent body designed to investigate and review instances of alleged police misconduct and review police policies and procedures, to issue a subpoena to Lieutenant Freddy D’Agastino and order him to appear before the CIP to testify in regard to alleged misconduct. D’Agastino and the Fraternal Order of Police argued that the CIP as an investigative authority conflicts with a component of the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights (PBR), Fla. Stat. 112.533(1). The trial court ruled in favor of the City of Miami and the CIP. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below to the extent it affirmed the CIP’s authority to issue a subpoena to D’Agastino, holding that the PBR preempts the authority of a political subdivision as defined in Fla. Stat. 112.533(1)(b) to compel an officer to testify in connection with a complaint of misconduct through a subpoena. View "D’Agastino v. City of Miami" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Gadsden County is a “county in which a majority of voters have approved slot machines…in a countywide referendum held pursuant to a statutory or constitutional authorization after the effective date of this section” under Fla. Stat. 551.102(4). Under the section 551.104(1), the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering is authorized to issue licenses to conduct slot machine gaming to “eligible facilities,” as defined in section 551.102(4). However, under section 551.102(2), licenses are limited to facilities in counties where the voters have approved slot machines as provided by article X, section 23 of the Florida Constitution, which does not extend beyond the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward. The Division denied a slot machine permit to Gretna Racing, LLC, a horse track facility in Gadsden County, based on the Division’s conclusion that neither the requirements of section 551.102(2) nor section 551.102(4) had been satisfied. The First District Court of Appeal upheld the Division’s denial of the license. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, based on the law establishing the powers of non-charter counties and the provisions of chapter 551, Florida Statutes, the Division’s denial of the slot machine permit sought by Gretna Racing was correct because submission of the ballot question to the voters was not legally authorized. View "Gretna Racing, LLC v. Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation" on Justia Law

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Florida Public Utilities Company (FPUC), an electric utility that relies solely on wholesale purchase power agreements with other electric utilities, entered into a settlement agreement with the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) in resolution of its then-pending petition for an increase in base rates. The Florida Public Service Commission unanimously approved the settlement agreement. FPUC subsequently petitioned the Commission for approval of its fuel adjustment and purchased power cost recovery factors for the year 2016. Contrary to the terms of the settlement agreement, FPUC’s petition sought to recover costs associated with constructing a new interconnection with Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). The Commission ultimately approved the recovery of the entire FPL interconnection costs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Commission departed from the requirements of law by failing to properly consider and apply the terms of the settlement agreement with regard to FPUC’s petition; (2) the Commission erred in concluding that such construction capital expenditures are capable of recovery through fuel clause proceedings; and (3) the settlement agreement prohibited FPUC from petitioning the Commission for recovery of costs associated with the transmission interconnection project through fuel clause proceedings. View "Citizens of the State of Florida v. Graham" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the union that represented officers employed by the City of Miami’s police department (the Union) and the City of Miami (the City). After the City declared a “financial urgency” in 2010, the City notified the Union that it intended to implement changes to the CBA. When the parties were unable to come to an agreement, the City’s legislative body voted to unilaterally alter the terms of the CBA and adopted changes regarding wages, pension benefits, and other economic terms of employment. The Union filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge with the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC), arguing that the City acted improperly by unilaterally changing the CBA before completing the impasse resolution process provided for in Fla. Stat. 447.4095. PERC dismissed the Union’s ULP charge. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the First District’s decision, holding (1) an employer must demonstrate that funds are available from no other possible reasonable source before unilaterally modifying a CBA; and (2) modification can only be made after completing the impasse resolution process set forth in section 447.4095. View "Headley v. City of Miami" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) filed a petition requesting that the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) approve FPL’s purchase of a power plant so that FPL could terminate its existing power purchase agreement with Cedar Bay. The Florida Industrial Power Users Group (FIPUG) and the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) intervened in the proceedings. OPC and FPL subsequently reached a negotiated settlement agreement and filed a motion for the Commission’s approval of the agreement. At a hearing on the petition FIPUG invoked the rule of sequestration of witnesses, codified in Fla. Stat. 90.616. The PSC denied the request, concluding that it had discretion as to whether to apply the rule in its proceedings. The PSC subsequently approved the settlement agreement. FIPUG appealed, arguing that the PSC erred in not sequestering the witnesses. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PSC had the discretion on whether to apply the Florida Evidence Code and, in particular, the rule of sequestration during its proceedings. View "Florida Industrial Power Users Group v. Graham" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Bradley Westphal suffered a severe work-related injury. The City of St. Petersburg provided temporary total disability benefits pursuant to Fla. Stat. 440.15(2). Westphal did not reach maximum medical improvement prior to the expiration of the 104-week limitation on temporary total disability benefits and thus filed a petition for benefits pursuant to Fa. Stat. 440.15(1). The Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) denied Westphal’s claim, thus leaving Westphal totally disabled at the cessation of temporary total disability benefits but not yet entitled to permanent total disability benefits because he could not prove he would still be totally disabled when he reached maximum medical improvement. Westphal appealed, arguing that section 440.15(2) was unconstitutional. The First District Court of Appeal “valiantly attempted to save the statute from unconstitutionality” by interpreting it so that Westphal would not be cut off from compensation after 104 weeks. The Supreme Court quashed the First District’s decision, holding that section 440.15(2)(a) is unconstitutional as applied to Westphal and all others similarly situated as a denial of access to courts under article I, section 21 of the Florida Constitution. View "Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg" on Justia Law