Thursday, December 14, 2017

Constitutional Crisis In Florida: No Go On Quo Warranto

The Florida Supreme Court denied relief in a matter brought by the League of Women Voters. 

This case is before the Court on the petition of the League of Women Voters of Florida (the League) for a writ of quo warranto. Because the issue presented is not ripe for consideration, we dismiss the petition.

The League asks this Court to issue a writ of quo warranto against Governor Rick Scott prohibiting him from “filling any judicial vacancies on Florida’s appellate courts that occur due to terms expiring in January 2019.” The League’s basis for filing the petition is Governor Scott’s December 2016 announcement of intent to appoint the replacements for three justices of this Court. However, use of the writ to address prospective conduct is not appropriate...

Although Governor Scott announced his intent to appoint the replacements for three justices of this Court, clearly no appointments have been made. To use quo warranto to review an action which is merely contemplated but not consummated, as in the present case, would require this Court to depart from the historical application of the writ. This we decline to do. Until some action is taken by the Governor, the matter the League seeks to have resolved is not ripe, and this Court lacks jurisdiction to determine whether quo warranto relief is warranted.

Based upon the foregoing, the petition is hereby dismissed.

Justice Lewis dissents

It is most unfortunate that the majority finds it necessary to summarily dismiss this common law action to protect our State from blatantly unconstitutional actions for reasons other than a proper analysis of the law and do so directly contrary to the application of quo warranto in this judicial appointment context in 2016 in Lerman v. Scott, No. SC16-783, 2016 WL 3127708 *1 (Fla. June 3, 2016), in which the entire Court either concurred or concurred in result. It is even more regrettable and distressing that future Floridians have lost the ability to protect themselves and society from clearly unconstitutional action. The Florida Constitution requires devoted protection and the Florida citizens deserve better.

Contrary to Florida law and the general common law, the majority has now announced that the challenged conduct must have already produced a constitutional crisis and calamitous result before illegal acts of government officials are subject to quo warranto review or relief. Florida law has generally recognized that quo warranto is available to prevent significant impacts on the operation of government, Whiley v. Scott, 79 So. 3d 702, 708 (Fla. 2011), but the majority now negates that common sense, reasonable, and logical analysis to require that that illegal and unconstitutional conduct which produces disarray must have already occurred to allow judicial action. While writs of quo warranto may be applied to acts of state officials that have already been committed, the writ is not foreclosed as an avenue of relief for threatened and imminent future actions of state officials, based on the clear Florida law...

Under the majority view, elected politicians can announce their intentions and plan to engage in all types of illegal and harmful conduct but no relief is available until the illegal and harmful act has already inflicted its damage. Magnificent trees cut, pristine waters fouled, and unthinkable harm inflicted upon our citizens, which may not be prevented when the actor plans and even announces his intentions. Today, we have a new test. The writ is only available when the illegal act is taken and harm is actually inflicted—at times even irreparable harm.

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