Making Modern Florida: How the Spirit of Reform Shaped a New State Constitution
by Mary E. Adkins
Reviewed by Christopher S. Emmanuel
As our state embarks on its third vicennial Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), University of Florida Law Professor Mary Adkins’ new book Making Modern Florida could not be timelier. This book, her first, is an accessible history of the fall of Florida’s outdated Reconstruction Era Constitution and the rise of the modern document beloved by many in our profession. For followers of Florida politics and jurisprudence, this largely untold story shows how much, and how little, has changed over the past 50 years.
The book begins in a time of political turmoil. Court decisions on redistricting have placed significant uncertainty into established power centers. Single-party control has led to new political factions within the caucus. Adding to the pressure, Florida’s rapid expansion has strained both resources and government. With this backdrop, 37 individuals from across the state were chosen to move Florida from a “horse and buggy” constitution into the Space Age.
The commissioners debated every article of the current Florida Constitution, including the makeup of the legislative and executive branches, the rights to be granted by the document, and a complete overhaul of the judicial system. The creation of the 1968 Constitution was no easy feat. Through many interviews of the living commissioners, Adkins shows that the product was far from inevitable. In the end, many individuals displayed both the wisdom and courage necessary to make the modern, protective constitution that we have today.
While history may not be always written by the victors, constitutions certainly are. Adkins meticulously researched this story from dozens of interviews and hundreds of sources, most of which paint the entire process in a positive light. Through the use of the CRC debate transcripts, Adkins has put together what the public knew about each side in each policy debate. But those that follow any political body know that many disagreements are left out of the public record. Perhaps some of the commission’s nuance has been lost to time.
For those interested in the political forces and individuals that molded modern Florida, Adkins has assembled an excellent history of a changing state’s structure and the birth of modern Florida constitutional law. For the 16 members of The Florida Bar appointed to the new Constitution Revision Commission, the last chapter’s advice is worth reading.
Christopher S. Emmanuel is the director of infrastructure and governance policy at the Florida Chamber of Commerce and a member of The Florida Bar.
The Florida State Constitution
by Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte
Reviewed by Jon L. Mills
The Florida Constitution itself is not light reading. However, Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte’s The Florida State Constitution is mandatory reading for anyone with an interest in Florida constitutional issues. The book dissects a complex legal document into manageable sections with guiding commentary and definitive analysis on the history and differing interpretations of its provisions. It is the best comprehensive resource for practitioners, law students, journalists, and professors. Because of the upcoming Constitution Revision Commission process in 2018, it should be important to all Floridians.
Sandy D’Alemberte is uniquely qualified to make this overarching assessment of the Florida Constitution, given his lifelong active participation in its development: as a draftsman, a teacher, and a litigator for the past 50 years. He was a member of the House of Representatives when it was debating the proposals that led to the 1968 dramatic overhaul of the Florida Constitution. D’Alemberte also chaired the 1977-1978 Constitution Revision Commission, is former president of the ABA, and currently serves as president emeritus of Florida State University and a professor of Florida constitutional law at Florida State College of Law.
This book begins with an examination of the role of state constitutions in relation to the federal constitution in a strong and demonstrative way. It describes the important function that state constitutions have in policy work in the United States, a timeless consideration that only becomes more relevant in today’s political climate. The book then traces an overview of the history of Florida’s five constitutions, beginning in 1838. This historical context is important for understanding current interpretations of the constitution, as well as the 2017-2018 Constitution Revision Commission’s role in shaping the future of the document and public policy in our state.
D’Alemberte then proceeds into a section-by-section analysis in which each provision’s origins and case interpretations are discussed, along with insightful commentary by the author. The book serves as a resource for any specific constitutional question and a practical starting point for any legal research on the constitution. It also provides background on the wording of each provision and places the provisions in historical context.
For example, by examining the history and commentary of art. IX, “Education,” one learns that the current “paramount duty of the state” language is rooted in the original education language of the 1868 Constitution and was restored to this highest duty language by the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission. Also, art. I, §23, articulates an explicit constitutional right of privacy, to be “free from governmental intrusion” into private life. The commentary sets the stage for the different areas of law when this amendment has affected major policy, including the right to refuse medical treatment and abortion decisions, and the protection of private information from disclosure by the state.
Overall, I highly recommend this book as a resource for anyone with an interest or desire to learn about the Florida Constitution in an easy research guide format. Further, the detailed history and insights make reading the book an enjoyable process of discovery about Florida’s fundamental document.
Jon L. Mills is a Florida Bar member, counsel to Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, director of the Center for Governmental Responsibility, and dean emeritus and professor of law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches Florida constitutional law.
Baseball Meets the Law: A Chronology of Decisions, Statutes and Other Legal Events
by Ed Edmonds and Frank G. Houdek
Reviewed by Robert M. Jarvis
During the past 20 years, books exploring the connection between baseball and the law have become a cottage industry. The genre now has a fine new addition: Baseball Meets the Law: A Chronology of Decisions, Statutes and Other Legal Events (2017). As one might expect from two retired law library directors, the book is a detailed reference guide to the game’s most notable legal developments.
Following a brief introduction, the book is divided into two parts. Part I consists of seven chapters, each focused on a discrete era. The first chapter, “Baseball Origins and Club Teams, 1791-1865,” begins baseball’s story by explaining that on September 5, 1791, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, passed an ordinance prohibiting anyone from playing baseball within 80 yards of the town’s new meeting house (to protect the building’s windows).
The authors do not linger over Pittsfield’s regulation, disposing of it in a single paragraph. They remain just long enough to mention that it was discovered in 2004 by John Thorn, baseball’s official historian; a copy was later found in Pittsfield’s public library; and a plaque, donated by the Baseball Hall of Fame, now informs visitors of Pittsfield’s contribution.
The authors’ terseness keeps the book moving forward at a fast pace, with each subsequent event limited to a single paragraph. While some years — such as 1937 and 2011 — are omitted, most have between one and three entries. A few have more, such as 1920 (pp. 63-66), which weighs in with nine, including two involving Babe Ruth and three concerning the Black Sox scandal.
The entries represent a mix of the well-known, such as June 19, 1972 (pp. 122-23), the day the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Curt Flood’s challenge to the reserve clause, and the obscure, such as June 20, 1952 (pp. 100-01), the night Warner Bros., released The Winning Team, a movie about pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander starring Ronald Reagan.
The final entry — December 14, 2015 (p. 171) — discusses Commissioner Rob Manfred’s denial of Pete Rose’s reinstatement request. It is fitting to end with Rose, who was banned for gambling, for it brings Part I full circle, going as it does from broken windows to broken trust.
Part II contains three appendices (a list of baseball lawyers and a Black Sox timeline and reading list), chapter notes, an exhaustive bibliography, and three indices (of the book’s cases, statutes, and subjects). These materials make it clear just how deeply the authors have plumbed baseball’s archives.
Given its modest price, the book is an ideal gift for anyone interested in baseball law. If there is a criticism to be made, it is of the unimaginative cover: a stock photo of a baseball, a scale, and a gavel. The book can be purchased for $39.95 from McFarland & Co., Inc. (www.mcfarlandpub.com).
Robert M. Jarvis is a professor of law at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale and the co-author of Baseball and the Law: Cases and Materials (Carolina Academic Press, 2016).
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