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Judicial Developments Related to the 2012 Legislative Session

There have just been two major judicial decisions dealing with recent legislative changes. These include the recent Florida Supreme Court decision finding the Senate’s redistricting map unconstitutional and the decision by a Leon County Circuit Judge finding unconstitutional the requirement that members of the State Retirement System contribute 3% of their salaries to the pension fund.

I. The Florida Supreme Court Rejects Senate’s Redistricting Map, and Confirms House Map by 5-2 vote.

In a 234-page ruling written by Justice Pariente, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the Senate Redistricting map was unconstitutional, but that the House map met the c0nstitutional requirements. (Justices Canady and Polston dissented as to the senate map)

A 2010 Constitutional Amendment requires that Apportionment or redistricting meet certain criteria. For examples, districts must not be drawn to intentionally favor incumbents, should be compact, and should not damage minority participation. These New Standards passed by 63% of the Voters in 2010, requiring the Legislature to redraw districts to comply with these requirements.

To determine whether the Senatorial district maps complied with these requirements, the Florida Supreme The Court reviewed voter registrations, elections, and incumbent addresses and found that the motive to protect minority voting rights did not justify such odd boundaries and that these odd boundaries were designed to protect incumbents.

The Court determined that the Senate had an improper intent to favor incumbents, finding that the Senate map was rife with indications of improper intent, which cumulatively indicate a pattern.

The Court found that over-populated districts were comparatively overrepresented in the way the districts were drawn and individuals in Republican performing districts were overrepresented in comparison to individuals in Democratic performing districts.

It also found that 16 senators who are eligible for 8 yrs.in office now would be eligible for 10yrs., 3 incumbents eligible for 9, would be eligible for 11, and that none would be limited to 8 yrs.

The individual Districts the Court evaluated and found to be unconstitutional included:

District 10: The Court found that District 10 was designed to favor Republican Senator Andy Gardiner of Orlando because: it is not compact; it has a bizarre shape which cannot be justified to insure minority voting strength; and has an appendage that reaches out to encompass the incumbent’s strong voting area. The Court also rejected Senate Districts 29, 30, 34 and others.

In total the Court ruled that 8 of the Senate’s 40 redrawn districts violated the new Fair Districts standards.

The Florida Supreme Court unanimously approved the 120 house districts

To address this situation, Governor Scott has called lawmakers into a 15-day “Extraordinary” Session, beginning this Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

II. Leon County Circuit Court Judge Finds Unconstitutional the 2011 Law requiring Members of the State Retirement System to Contribute 3% of their Salaries to the Pension Fund

The Leon County Circuit Judge found this requirement unconstitutional because it breaches the contract with the current employees; it is a taking of property without full compensation and abridges the employee’s collective bargaining rights. The court also found that lowering the cost of living adjustments retirees received is unconstitutional

This ruling only applies to government workers who were members of the Florida retirement fund before July 2011 such as employees of the State, school district, public universities, counties, and community colleges, This ruling potentially affects 5f60,000 people.

The Court ruled that the moneys must be paid back to those who made these unconstitutional contributions.

This decision is headed for appeal to the First District Court of Appeal and then probably to Florida Supreme Court

The State of Florida has already spent $500,000 in fees to defend this requirement and is looking at spending at least $300,000 more to appeal to this decision to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

Sherri K. DeWitt
DeWitt Law Firm, P.A.
March 10, 2012