News from Tallahassee for 8/20/14

Jeb Bush’s opposition to medical marijuana draws rebuke from ACLU posted on 8/15/14

by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s decision to come out against a November ballot proposal making medical marijuana an option for treating a wide range of illnesses drew a quick rebuke from the state’s American Civil Liberties Union.

Howard Simon, the ACLU’s executive director, drew a parallel between Bush’s opposition to medical marijuana and his 2005 intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman found by a court to be in a persistent vegetative state.

“Once again, Jeb Bush is trying to impose his views on medical treatment on Florida patients,” said Simon, whose organization clashed with Bush in the Schiavo case.

Simon added, ““Opponents of the amendment seem to hope that the people of Florida will have forgotten Jeb’s history of using government to invade people’s medical choices, such as when he used his power as governor to push aside years of court decisions that determined that Terri Schiavo would not have wanted to be kept alive in a vegetative state.

“He then attempted to command the machinery of state government to force feed a person who was brain dead,” Simon said.

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Governor's race will also shape Fla. Supreme Court posted on 8/13/14

by brendan farrington | ap

Supreme Court of FLTALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- If former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is elected governor as a Democrat in November, all seven state Supreme Court justices might be his appointments.

If Republican Gov. Rick Scott is re-elected, he could completely reshape the court that has frustrated him and other GOP leaders on issues ranging from medical marijuana to efforts to protect doctors and businesses from lawsuits.

Whichever candidate Floridians elect, they also will decide the direction of the Supreme Court for decades to come. Florida's mandatory retirement age of 70 for Supreme Court justices means four will leave the court by January 2019, and each has often rejected laws created by the Republican-controlled Legislature and executive orders issued by Scott. Any appointees could stay on the court until they turn 70, which could be 20 years or more.

A number of Scott's actions have been found unconstitutional in state and federal courts, including attempts to drug test welfare recipients and state employees; his order to state agencies not to implement rules for regulations established by the Legislature; a prison privatization plan; and an effort to protect developers from lawsuits.

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AG Democrat Candidate Sheldon Fends Off Residency, Bar Questions posted on 8/6/14

by Lynn Hatter | WFSU

Democratic Attorney General Candidate George Sheldon is trying to fending off challenges to his eligibility. Complaints say Sheldon, who most recently served in the Obama Administration can’t claim Florida residency.

In addition to residing in Florida for the past seven years leading up to election, Florida’s Constitution also requires Attorney General Candidates to be members of the Florida bar for the preceding five years. One of Sheldon’s opponent’s in the race, the former Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t qualify for the ballot because he didn’t maintain continuing education requirements for Bar membership:

The Supreme Court rules if the attorney doesn’t CER requirement, it’s the same as if they had not paid dues or are disqualified for some other reason," says Libertarian Attorney General Candidate Bill Wohlsifer who filed one of the complaints against Sheldon’s qualifications.

Wohlsifer, also an attorney, says Sheldon didn’t meet the rules set forth by the Florida bar, because during the time Sheldon lived and worked in Washington—he didn’t complete continuing education requirements.

“It’s not about residency, it’s about are you practicing law and if so, you need to maintain the duties of Bar membership. If you’re not practicing law, then you’re not entitled to the benefits and priveleges of bar membership, ad you sort of have a leave of absence.”

But Sheldon is defending both his residency status and his Bar membership. The candidate says his license was in temporary delinquency and he was given 30 days to fix it. Sheldon says that doesn’t mean he was not a member of the Bar during that time.

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Judge won’t lift Florida Keys gay marriage stay posted on 7/22/14

by AP

MIAMI — A Florida Keys judge — who last week ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional — refused Monday to allow gay couples to begin marrying in Monroe County, citing a pending appeal by the state attorney general.

Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia rejected a motion to allow immediate weddings filed by attorneys for Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, a pair of Key West bartenders whose lawsuit successfully challenged the ban. Garcia ruled last week that the ban on same-sex marriage added to the state constitution by Florida voters in 2008 is discriminatory and violates gay people’s right to equal treatment under the law.

Garcia initially ruled marriage licenses could be issued in Monroe County beginning Tuesday to gay couples. But that was blocked by an automatic stay triggered when Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately filed notice that the state will appeal.

Bondi’s office filed papers later Monday urging Garcia to keep the stay in place and preserve the status quo until all appeals are sorted out and Garcia agreed. That means no gay marriages can take place while Garcia’s original ruling is reviewed by the Miami-based 3rd District Court of Appeal, which could take weeks or months to issue a decision.

In their motion, three attorneys for Huntsman and Jones wrote that gays are suffering harm because they cannot marry in Monroe County despite the judge’s ruling and because the state is unlikely to ultimately win an appeal. Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions against state marriage limits around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

“Every day that goes by, plaintiffs and other same-sex couples are being deprived of important constitutional rights and suffering additional serious, ongoing, and irreparable dignitary, legal and economic harms,” the motion says.

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Weekly Roundup: It's All About the Appeal posted on 7/21/14

by DARA KAM | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

It was a week of appeal-related decisions, both legal and political, that could have far-reaching implications.

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz shocked Capitol insiders when they announced they would not appeal Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis' ruling last week striking down the Legislature's congressional map. Instead, the legislative leaders want Lewis to let lawmakers wait until after the November elections -- when Gaetz and Weatherford will no longer be in power -- to redraw the Northeast and Central Florida districts at the heart of Lewis' ruling.

Attorney General Pam Bondi ignored the pleas of gay couples and gay-rights advocates who won a first-of-its-kind ruling in Florida in a lawsuit challenging the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Bondi immediately filed a notice to appeal a Monroe County judge's decision that found the voter-approved ban violates due process and U.S. constitutional protections against discrimination.

And former Gov. Charlie Crist, trying to make a comeback as a Democrat, enlisted Annette Taddeo to be his running-mate in what some consider a "two-fer" in his efforts to appeal to Latino and women voters, both blocs whose support is considered critical to Crist's bid to overthrow Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

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