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April 1, 2009
Suit challenges the use of court fees

As the Legislature continues to wrestle with the issues of court funding and how fees collected by the clerks should be spent, a group of Florida lawyers has filed suit in the Supreme Court claiming the transfer of court user fees to the state’s general revenue fund is an “unconstitutional tax.”

The petition seeks to prevent the Legislature from using the funds generated by court fees for anything except “court-related purposes.”

The suit, in case number 09-467, was brought by Tallahassee lawyers Robert Ervin and Davisson Dunlap, who are being represented by Dexter Douglass of Tallahassee, Michael Callahan of St. Petersburg, John Fisher or Orlando, and Charles Baumberger of Miami.

The petitioners said they filed the action directly with the Supreme Court because “given the constitutional questions presented herein, this case would in all likelihood ultimately be decided by this court. Therefore, the interests of judicial economy favor an immediate resolution.”

The petition asserts the “ultra vires actions” of the Legislature, in diverting $80 million in court “user fees” for non-court-related functions in the 2008 session, is “unconstitutional conduct capable of immediate repetition” in the current legislative session.

The petitioners also assert the current use of court user fees for non-court purposes has resulted in “instability in funding the state court system.”

[Revised: 04-15-2014]