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Bar opposes court override measure

Senior Editor Regular News

Bar opposes court override measure

Senior Editor

If it makes it before a legislative committee, The Florida Bar will oppose a proposed constitutional amendment to allow the Legislature by a two-thirds vote to overrule a Supreme Court or other state court finding that a state statute is unconstitutional.

The Bar Board of Governors, at its January 20 meeting, also took a position that any such attempt at passing a similar amendment for federal courts in Congress should be opposed.

Those actions came in response to the filing of House Joint Resolution 121 by Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice (See story in the January 15 Bar News.) to allow the Legislature to override a court decision striking down a statute within five years of the court action.

Gary Lesser He also filed HM 125, a “memorial” to Congress asking for a similar amendment to the U.S. Constitution be proposed by the states.

Legislation Committee Chair Gary Lesser reported the committee unanimously voted to take the positions opposing Gonzalez’s proposals.

“This is an attempt to implement legislative override of the courts’ authority at the state level,” Lesser said of the first position. “The [second] item attempts to do so at the federal level.”

Under board policies, the board follows a two-step procedure in adopting Bar legislative positions. In the first step, the board must by a two-thirds vote find the subject matter within the purview of matters in which the Bar can engage in legislative activities. It then votes on whether the Bar should take the legislative position.

On both issues, the board voted unanimously to find the issues within the purview of allowed Bar legislative activities and then voted again unanimously to adopt both positions as presented by the Legislation Committee.

The board had no discussion in following the committee’s recommendations.

The board, at its December meeting, approved legislative positions opposing any legislative action to reduce the Supreme Court’s authority to regulate the practice of law, adopt rules for the Judicial Qualifications Commission and judicial nominating commissions, and procedural rules for the courts.

Gonzalez said he took his idea from writings of Thomas Jefferson, arguing that citizen ideas about what is and isn’t constitutional should have as much weight as court rulings.

His proposed state amendment reads: “Any law, resolution, or other legislative act declared void by the supreme court, district court of appeal, circuit court, or county court of this state may be deemed active and operational, notwithstanding the court’s ruling, if agreed to by the Legislature pursuant to a joint resolution adopted by a two-thirds vote of each house within five years after the date that the ruling becomes final. Such a joint resolution is exempt from section 8 of this article and shall take effect immediately upon passage.”

Its federal counterpart would be: “Any law, resolution, or other legislative act declared void by the Supreme Court of the United States or any district court of appeal may be deemed active and operational, notwithstanding the court’s ruling, if agreed to by the Legislature pursuant to a joint resolution adopted by a 60 percent vote of each chamber within five years after the date that the ruling becomes final. Such a joint resolution shall take effect immediately upon passage.”

The Bar’s legislative position is shorter, stating the Bar, “Opposes amendments to the Florida Constitution that restricts or overturns the courts’ authority to review the constitutional validity of legislation.”

The second position is identical except for substituting “United States Constitution” for “Florida Constitution.”

An official notice here has complete information about the positions.