Legal Updates

WRITE-IN CANDIDATE SUIT A group of Northeast Florida voters filed a lawsuit contesting current law regarding write-in candidates. The issue involves closed primary elections. Should all candidates for an office be from one party only, then the election will be open to all voters, regardless of party affiliation. However, should a write-in candidate emerge, then the primary will be closed, meaning only the candidates’ party voters would elect the winner. Political operatives and candidates use this loophole to close elections to other parties by enlisting a write-in candidate. The suit is asking the Florida Supreme Court to strike down the law; but since absentee ballots have already been mailed any such ruling would not be effective this election cycle. Previous court rulings have recognized these write-in candidates as legitimate.

SEXUAL ABUSE CASE The Florida Supreme Court was asked to intervene in a case filed by an unidentified man in Miami against the Archdiocese of Miami where he alleged a pattern of sexual abuse dating back to the 1980’s. A Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge dismissed the case primarily on statute of limitations issues; a decision subsequently upheld by the 4th District Court of Appeal.

TAX CREDIT SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM The 1st District Court of Appeal has agreed with a lower court’s dismissal of Save Our Scholarships Coalition’s suit challenging Florida’s school voucher program. Tax credits are granted to businesses that provide financial scholarships to low income students to attend private schools. When the program was created in 2001, the courts subsequently ruled that the plaintiffs had no standing from which to sue, dismissing the case.

IMMIGRANT EMERGENCY CARE The 1st District Court of Appeal confirmed the decision of an administrative judge regarding Medicaid reimbursement payments to hospitals treating undocumented immigrants in the emergency room. Over two dozen hospitals appealed the decision by challenging the Agency for Healthcare Administration’s rule making procedure. The state must pay plaintiffs’ attorneys $176,000 in legal fees because of a 2012 Circuit Court ruling.

CONVICTION UPHELD The 5th District Court of Appeal has upheld the conviction of former Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority board member Scott Batterson on bribery charges. The 2014 charges involved Batterson’s attempt to secure employment for friends at an engineering firm in exchange for the award of a Expressway contract. The court ruled without comment.

TOBACCO INDUSTRY APPEAL Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled against two tobacco companies in a case resulting from the 2006 Supreme Court ruling acknowledging health risks associated with smoking. The companies argued that the state does not have the power to preempt claims that rightfully belong under federal jurisdiction. The state court disagreed because it had been established that while companies have the right to sell their products, they manipulated ingredients, toxicity and other factors that directly harmed smokers.

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