The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Agency Deference


While I have great respect for my good friends, Judge (Ret.) Frank Shepherd and Roberto Martinez, there can be much debate over their “editorial,” which appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of the Journal titled,  “The Demise of Agency Deference:  Florida Takes the Lead.”

The electorate’s 2018 adoption of the new Fla. Const. art. V, §21, demonstrates the wrong-headedness of our state’s presentation method of proposed constitutional amendments to the public. I would strongly suggest that very few voters, outside of a minority segment of the legal community, possessed any knowledge of the issue of “judicial deference” to administrative agency determinations. Furthermore, the proposal was inappropriately (and intentionally) bundled with an “attractive” issue such as victims’ rights.  If most Florida citizens, who can hardly afford the expense of litigating before state administrative agencies, understood the additional costs and extended litigation timeline that this amendment has promoted, I doubt they would have shown much support.

Additionally, it is offensive to pontificate that earlier court decisions, which laid the foundation for judicial respect for the work of administrative law judges, boards, and commissions, were “clearly erroneous.”  This change of longstanding law and custom is just one aspect of a conservative Republican Party effort to “reform” the judicial system into its own image.

Don Slesnick, Coral Gables