Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Florida Supreme Court to Governor Rick Scott: Unconstitutional Executive Order Suspending Agency Actions
In an opinion today, Wiley v. Scott, the Florida Supreme Court dealt a blow to Governor Rick Scott's attempt to - - - as the Governor's website describes it - - - fulfill a campaign practice by "signing executive orders to freeze job-killing regulations." In Executive Order 11-01 entitled "Suspending Rulemaking and Establishing the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform" Scott established the office, known as OFARR, within the Executive Office of the Governor and directed the suspension of rulemaking except as approved by OFARR. After a lawsuit was brought but before today's opinion, Scott superceded EO 11-01 with Executive Order-11-72, in which he no longer used the word "suspend." The Florida Supreme Court deemed this change more apparent than real, labeling it "nothing more than a sleight of hand."
In Wiley, the Florida Supreme Court (pictured below) issued the extraordinary writ of quo warranto - - - a proper writ, according to a previous case, to "challenge the 'power and authority' of a constitutional officer, such as the Governor."
Having agreed to consider the case, the per curiam opinion, over two dissents, forumulated its "precise task" as being "to decide whether the Governor has overstepped his constitutional authority by issuing executive orders which contain certain limitations and suspensions upon agencies relating to their delegated legislative rulemaking authority and the requirements related thereto."
The Florida Supreme Court found that the Governor usurped the legislative role under the strong separation of powers principles in the Florida Constitution.
Rulemaking is a derivative of lawmaking. An agency is empowered to adopt rules if two requirements are satisfied. First, there must be a statutory grant of rulemaking authority, and second, there must be a specific law to be implemented.
After an extensive analysis, the court concluded that the Governor‘s executive orders, to the extent each suspends and terminates rulemaking by precluding notice publication and other compliance with the state administrative procedure act absent prior approval from OFARR, infringe upon the very process of rulemaking and encroach upon the Legislature‘s delegation of its rulemaking power. The court noted that whether "the Governor exceeded his authority derived from state law does not turn upon the number of times the encroachment occurred or whether petitioner was personally affected by it."
Two Florida Supreme Court Justices dissented, joining each other's opinions but writing separately. Justice Ricky Poston's dissent is longest, nearly as lengthy as the court's per curiam majority opinion. Poston relies on Article IV, section 1(a) of the Florida Constitution that provides that the "supreme executive power shall be vested in a governor" and argues that the Governor has broad powers. Polston also argues that because EO 11-01 has been superceded and OFARR is approving rulemaking, the Florida Supreme Court's opinion is merely advisory.
The opinion, however, relies upon state constitutional separation of powers provisions and principles to invalidate the acts of a controversial governor seeking to create a super-administrative agency within the Executive branch to control all other agencies. As such, it might be read with interest by other state supreme courts, and perhaps other governors.