Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In this case, two companies and an individual, all involved in Florida's gaming industry, petitioned against the Governor of Florida and others, challenging a gaming compact between the State and the Seminole Tribe. The petitioners argued that a sports betting provision in the compact violated the Florida Constitution, which limits the expansion of casino gambling to the citizens' initiative process. They claimed that the Governor and Legislature exceeded their constitutional authority by allowing the compact to be enacted. The petitioners requested a declaration that the law implementing the compact was unconstitutional and sought an injunction to stop the Seminole Tribe from continuing to operate mobile sports betting.However, the Supreme Court of Florida rejected this petition on the grounds that a writ of quo warranto, which the petitioners used to challenge the compact, was not an appropriate means to question the substantive constitutionality of an enacted law. The court underscored that quo warranto is a common law remedy used to test the right of a person to hold an office or exercise some right derived from the state, not to challenge the constitutionality of a law. Therefore, the petitioners' claim was beyond the relief that quo warranto provides.The petitioners' reliance on previous cases, where the writ of quo warranto was used to question the Governor's authority to bind the state to a compact without ratification by the Legislature, was also rejected. The court pointed out that these cases were fundamentally different as they did not challenge the substance of the agreement enacted by the Governor and ratified by the Legislature.In conclusion, the Supreme Court of Florida denied the petition, stating that the relief sought by the petitioners was beyond what quo warranto provides and declined to extend the scope of the writ to test the substantive constitutionality of a statute. View "West Flagler Associates, Ltd. v. DeSantis" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of Florida reviewed a decision from the Fifth District Court of Appeal related to the termination of a father's parental rights. The father, identified as C.C., had been convicted 18 times over a 15-year period, including for domestic violence, arson, and driving while intoxicated. He was repeatedly incarcerated, leading to his lack of involvement in the life of his son, L.A., who was taken into state custody shortly after his birth due to his mother's physical abuse of his older brother. Despite minimal involvement in L.A.'s life, C.C. challenged the termination of his parental rights, arguing that the termination was not the least restrictive means of protecting L.A.The trial court had concluded that C.C.'s repeated incarceration, token support, and failure to maintain a substantial and positive relationship with L.A. constituted abandonment, and that his repeated incarceration and unavailability presented a risk of harm to L.A., despite his receipt of services. On appeal, the Fifth District Court of Appeal concluded that C.C. should have been provided with a case plan and the opportunity to comply with it before his parental rights were terminated.The Supreme Court of Florida disagreed with the Fifth District's decision, finding that it had improperly reweighed the evidence. The Supreme Court held that the trial court's determination that termination was the least restrictive means of protecting L.A. was supported by competent, substantial evidence, and it remanded the case to the Sixth District to affirm the trial court's order terminating C.C.'s parental rights. The court emphasized that the paramount concern was the welfare of the child and that despite the services provided to C.C., he had not been able to overcome the issues that led to L.A.'s dependency. View "Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office v. C.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Florida was tasked with reviewing a case involving the interpretation of the state's comparative fault statute and its application to tort actions involving the "dram-shop exception." The case originated from a tragic accident in which an intoxicated 18-year-old, Jacquelyn Faircloth, was hit by a speeding truck driven by an intoxicated 20-year-old, Devon Dwyer. Faircloth's guardianship sued two bars, asserting that they had "willfully and unlawfully" served alcohol to Dwyer and Faircloth, leading to their intoxication and the subsequent accident.The central legal question in this case was whether the action permitted under the dram-shop exception, section 768.125, which allows liability when alcohol is "willfully and unlawfully" provided to an underage patron causing intoxication and injury, is a "negligence action" for the purposes of the comparative fault statute, section 768.81.The court agreed with the district court’s finding that the action permitted by the underage drinker exception in section 768.125 is indeed a negligence action for purposes of the comparative fault statute, section 768.81. The court reasoned that while the dram-shop exception requires a finding of willful misconduct, this does not alter the basic relationship between the defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff’s injury inherent in a negligence claim. The court clarified that willfulness in this context pertains to the defendant’s knowledge of the purchaser's underage status, not an intentional infliction of harm.The court did not, however, rule on the district court's conclusions about how fault should be allocated among the bars and underage patrons involved in the case, considering those issues outside the scope of the certified question. View "Faircloth v. Main Street Entertainment, Inc., etc." on Justia Law

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In 2024, the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the convictions and death sentences of Everett Glenn Miller for the first-degree premeditated murders of Kissimmee Police Officers Matthew Baxter and Richard “Sam” Howard. In August 2017, Miller had interrupted a conversation Officer Baxter was having with three individuals, requesting the presence of a superior officer at the scene. After Sergeant Howard arrived, Miller shot both officers twice in the head from close range. At the time of his arrest later that night, Miller was found carrying two firearms, including the murder weapon.Prior to the murders, Miller, a former Marine, had been posting hateful anti-police and race-based comments on social media. At trial, Miller did not dispute that he had killed the officers, but his defense argued that premeditation was lacking and that the murders should be considered second-degree. The jury convicted Miller of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder and unanimously recommended death for each murder.Miller raised seven issues on appeal, including arguments about the admissibility of certain evidence, the qualifications of an expert witness, the presence of the cold, calculated, and premeditated (CCP) aggravating factor, and the constitutionality of Florida's capital punishment scheme. The court found no merit in any of these arguments and affirmed Miller's convictions and death sentences. View "Miller v. State of Florida" on Justia Law

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This case focuses on a Florida statute that concerns the inheritance rights of a child conceived from the eggs or sperm of a deceased person. Kathleen Steele, the appellant, had a child named P.S.S conceived through in vitro fertilization using her deceased husband's sperm. She sought survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), claiming P.S.S. was entitled to such benefits as a child of Mr. Steele. The SSA denied the application, and the decision was upheld by an administrative law judge and a federal district court.On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified two questions to the Supreme Court of Florida. The court only addressed the first question, which asked whether P.S.S was "provided for" in the decedent's will within the meaning of Florida Statute § 742.17(4).The Supreme Court of Florida ruled that "provided for" in this context means that the will must give something to the child as contemplated by the decedent when the will was made. The court found that Mr. Steele's will did not contemplate the possibility of children being conceived after his death nor did it provide any inheritance rights to such children. Therefore, the court concluded that P.S.S was not "provided for" in Mr. Steele's will within the meaning of the statute and was not eligible for a claim against the decedent's estate. The court did not address the second question certified by the Eleventh Circuit as the answer to the first question was determinative of the case. View "Steele v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Florida held that multiple punishments can be imposed for distinct acts springing from successive impulses to violate a single criminal prohibition in the course of a single criminal episode. In this case, the Petitioner, David William Trappman, was convicted of battery of a law enforcement officer and aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer during a single encounter. The first conviction was a result of Trappman shoving an officer, and the second conviction came from Trappman siccing a pit bull on the same officer. Trappman argued that the protection against double jeopardy precluded his dual convictions and sentences as they were part of a single criminal episode. The court disagreed, concluding that the shoving of the officer and the subsequent siccing of the dog on the officer were distinct criminal acts for which separate punishments were properly imposed. The court disapproved of previous cases that failed to apply the distinct acts test, which focuses on successive impulses. View "Trappman v. State" on Justia Law

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In the case under consideration, the appellant, Leon Davis Jr., a man sentenced to death, appealed the circuit court's denial of his initial motion for postconviction relief and also petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. The crimes in question involved murders that occurred at a gas station and convenience store in Polk County, Florida. Davis was sentenced to death following a bench trial, and his convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. In his appeal, Davis raised several issues, which included violations of the Giglio rule, the Brady rule, and claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel.The Supreme Court of Florida concluded that Davis did not demonstrate any instances of counsel’s deficiency, and thus, there was no cumulative error analysis to conduct. The court also held that Davis failed to prove that the State knowingly presented false testimony or that the testimony was material, thereby negating his Giglio claim. With regard to the Brady claim, the court ruled that Davis failed to establish prejudice and that the Brady violation did not exist. The Supreme Court of Florida also denied Davis's habeas claim. Thus, the court affirmed the circuit court's denial of postconviction relief and denied Davis's petition for habeas corpus. View "Davis v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In the case at hand, a Florida prisoner, Leon Davis Jr., under sentences of death, appealed the denial of his initial motion for postconviction relief and also petitioned the Court for a writ of habeas corpus. The crimes involved in this postconviction appeal occurred on December 13, 2007, at the Headley Insurance Agency in Polk County. Davis was sentenced to death following a jury trial for committing robbery, binding two women with duct tape, pouring gasoline on them, and setting them on fire. One of the women was pregnant. The Supreme Court of Florida, after reviewing the case, affirmed the denial of postconviction relief and denied Davis’s habeas petition. The Court found that Davis had not demonstrated that his trial counsel was ineffective or that the trial court erred in not ordering a competency examination. The Court also found that Davis's habeas claim was procedurally barred because it was a repackaged version of one of his postconviction claims. View "Davis v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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This case involves American Coastal Insurance Company ("American Coastal") and San Marco Villas Condominium Association, Inc. ("San Marco"). American Coastal issued San Marco a policy covering the condominium complex against various perils, including hurricanes. When Hurricane Irma struck Marco Island, San Marco's buildings sustained damage and submitted a claim to American Coastal. After an investigation, American Coastal estimated San Marco’s losses to be $356,208.82 and paid $192,629.75, reflecting depreciation and application of policy deductibles. San Marco, however, obtained an estimate showing damages exceeding eight million dollars, leading to a disagreement over the amount of loss, which San Marco sought to resolve by invoking the appraisal provision in the policy.American Coastal refused, arguing that an appraisal was premature since its investigation was ongoing. San Marco subsequently sued American Coastal, seeking the court to compel an appraisal. American Coastal contested, arguing that appraisal was inappropriate because they had completely denied coverage based on a policy condition that voids coverage when the insured commits fraud or makes material misrepresentations about the insurance. The trial court sided with San Marco and ordered an appraisal. The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's decision, and the Supreme Court of Florida granted review based on the certified conflict.The Supreme Court of Florida held that a trial court has discretion in determining the order in which coverage and amount-of-loss issues are resolved. It rejected American Coastal’s argument that coverage issues must be resolved before an appraisal can be ordered. The court found that the policy’s retained-rights provision contemplates appraisals occurring prior to resolution of coverage issues. Therefore, the court approved the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal and disapproved the certified conflict cases to the extent they are inconsistent with this opinion. View "American Coastal Insurance Company v. San Marco Villas Condominium Association, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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In 2024, the Supreme Court of Florida heard an appeal from Paul Glen Everett, a prisoner sentenced to death for first-degree murder, burglary, and sexual battery. Everett sought to have DNA testing conducted on 15 items that he claimed were linked to an acquaintance, Jared Farmer, potentially implicating Farmer in the crimes for which Everett was convicted. He argued that such testing could potentially result in his acquittal or a finding of guilt on a lesser offense. The circuit court denied Everett's motion, and Everett appealed that decision.Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's denial. The court found that Everett's motion did not meet the requirements set by Florida law, which necessitates a claim that the requested DNA testing "will exonerate the" defendant or "will mitigate the sentence." The Supreme Court also noted that Everett had confessed to the crimes, and his identity as the perpetrator was not in genuine dispute during his trial. The court rejected Everett's attempt to introduce new claims that his confession was false and that Farmer was involved in the crime. Even if DNA testing had shown Farmer's involvement, the court concluded there was no reasonable probability that Everett would have received a lesser sentence given the severity of his own admitted involvement. View "Everett v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law