Legal Updates

JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS The Florida Supreme Court ruled on a case involving the Governor’s ability to appoint circuit judges under certain circumstances, but which will affect all elected judges and officials.  Three retiring judges submitted their resignations with the effective date of three days prior to the end of their term, thereby creating a vacant judgeship for those days.  Governor Scott indicated his intention to fill the seats, but candidates for the open judgeships requested the Court block the appointments.  The Court ruled that they had no choice but to allow the Governor to make the appointments.

The issue was based in Florida’s ‘resign to run’ law which requires elected or appointed officials to resign should they decide to seek higher office.  An irrevocable resignation must be made prior to the first day of the qualifying period, but is not effective until the date the candidate takes the new office or when that candidate’s successor is required to take office.  In this particular case, as pointed out by four of the justices, the retiring judges “worked the system” in order to allow the Governor to appoint their successors.

WORKERS COMPENSATION ATTORNEY FEES The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the State’s attorney fee schedule for workers compensation cases enacted in 2009 was unconstitutional and denied claimants’ due process.  The law provided no means to contest such attorney’s fees.  In response to the ruling, the National Council on Compensation Insurance has proposed a 17.1 percent increase in rates for new, renewal and additional policies that would be effective on August 1st.

DEATH SENTENCE CHALLENGE Florida is still experiencing fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year by finding fault with the State’s death penalty process.  The Florida Supreme Court has heard arguments concerning all 390 death row inmates and their sentences.  At issue is whether a unanimous jury vote is required to impose the death penalty.  Changes made during the 2016 legislative session now require a 10-2 vote.  Approximately 75 percent of current death row inmates did not receive their sentences by a unanimous vote.

SLOT MACHINES The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in a gaming case related to the 2010 law concerning slot machines.  Gretna Racing is arguing that it is entitled to a slot machine license in Gadsden County because voters approved the measure in a referendum as required by law.  Opponents argue that the law only authorized slots in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and does not apply to other counties.  Five other counties have passed referendums approving slot machines.

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