Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the Florida Public Service Commission denying Duke Energy Florida, LLC's (DEF) request to recover approximately $16 from its customers for costs DEF incurred to meet its customers' demand for electricity, holding that the cost recovery should have been allowed.The costs at issue were incurred when a 420-megawatt (MW) steam-powered generating unit went offline at DEF's Bartow plant and was placed back in service at a derated capacity of 380 MW. After a hearing, an administrative law judge entered a recommended order denying cost recovery. The commission adopted the ALJ's recommendation in the final order on appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the factual findings forming the basis for the ALJ's ultimate causation determination were not supported by competent, substantial evidence. View "Duke Energy Florida, LLC v. Clark" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Fla. Stat. 120.68(3), which entitles a party to a presumptive stay upon the appeal of an agency decision that "has the effect of suspending or revoking a license," does not apply to an agency decision to administratively withdraw an incomplete renewal license application.When Ybor Medical Injury and Accident Clinic, Inc. (the clinic), applied to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to renew its expiring license the AHCA invited the clinic to supplement its application, which was incomplete. After the clinic failed to do so, AHCA administratively withdrew the incomplete renewal license application from further consideration. The AHCA appealed and sought a presumptive stay under section 120.68(3). The court of appeals granted the presumptive stay. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that the appeal of an agency’s withdrawal decision does not trigger the statute’s presumptive stay provision. View "Agency for Health Care Administration v. Ybor Medical Injury & Accident Clinic, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim failed because he received adequate consideration in exchange for the challenged fee when he took advantage of the privilege of using his credit card to pay the penalty.Plaintiff filed a putative class action arguing that a convenience fee that Plaintiff paid in connection with a penalty he paid with his credit card to the City of North Miami Beach. Plaintiff argued that the convenience fee was statutorily prohibited and that American Traffic Solutions, Inc. (ATS), with whom the City had contracted to issue and mail citations and process violators' payments of the civil penalties imposed, was unjustly enriched by retaining the fee. The trial court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The court of appeals certified a question to the Supreme Court, which answered that Plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim failed because he had not alleged a benefit conferred and accepted which would be unjust for ATS to retain. View "Pincus v. American Traffic Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the power to make changes to a county sheriff's budget the Supreme Court held that the Sheriff of Alachua County is not permitted under Florida Statutes chapters 30 and 129 to make object-level transfers without the approval of the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.At issue was the Sheriff's authority to transfer money within the Sheriff's budget at a level of detail called the "object" level under chapters 30 and 129. The County brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment that the Sheriff had no authority to move approximately $840,000 between two objects in the budget without approval from the County. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court's conclusion that the Sheriff had the authority to make transfers at the object level without County approval. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that when seeking to transfer money between objects, the Sheriff must follow the budgetary amendment process set forth in chapter 129 and that the Sheriff failed to do so in this case. View "Alachua County v. Watson" on Justia 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