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News

COURT DENIES CITY OF ST. PETERSBURG'S MOTION TO DISMISS FIRST AMENDMENT LAWSUIT  
 
In an order issued July 10, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich denied the City of St. Petersburg’s Motion to Dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the City’s trespass ordinance.  SLC, on behalf of Rev. Bruce Wright, filed the federal lawsuit in October 2013, after the City banned him for one year from Williams Park where he frequently advocated for homeless individuals and protested City policies.   Rev. Wright, an ordained minister and longtime homeless advocate, alleges that the trespass warning prevents him from exercising his First Amendment rights in that park.  The Court agreed that the facts that the Rev. Wright states in the complaint that his First Amendment rights were infringed by the trespass warning are a sufficient basis to state a claim for relief.  To read the order, click here. Posted July 15, 2014.

SLC FILES SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT IN SUIT SEEKING HIGH QUALITY EDUCATION IN FLORIDA

SLC filed a Second Amended Complaint against the state of Florida in its suit seeking a declaratory judgment from the court that the state has failed to meet its constitutional obligations to provide students with a uniform, efficient and high quality public school education. The Second Amended Complaint adds allegations challenging the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTCSP), a public program created in 2001 funded through business tax credits to provide tuition vouchers for eligible K-12 students to attend non-public schools.  Additionally, SLC is challenging the adequacy of Florida's pre-Kindergarten program and alleges that the State has not provided a high quality pre-kindergarten learning opportunity or delivered an early childhood development and education program according to professionally accepted standards, as required by the Florida Constitution.  Posted: May 30, 2014

ADENA SPRINGS UPDATE

Adena Springs Ranch has a new name: Sleepy Creek Lands LLC. The project has been divided into three phases. They have hired new attorneys. Permits necessary for Phase I have been obtained or are pending issuance by the St. Johns River Water Management District to support the final feeding and fattening of as many as 9,500 head of cattle before processing at the nearby slaughter house. If approved, Phase I will add an estimated 771 tons a year of manure, urine, and fertilizer to the Silver Springs springshed in the Ocklawaha Basin. A lawsuit challenging the issuance of these permits was filed on June 2, 2014 by concerned citizens Karen Ahlers and Jeri Baldwin who are fighting for the quality and quantity of fresh water in the Ocklawaha Basin and Silver Springs springshed. We must be prepared to respond to additional permit requests for Phases II and III and need your help. Hundreds of contributions from concerned private citizens, allied organizations, and the Felburn Foundation have funded this fight thus far. Help us continue to stand tall in our efforts to protect Florida’s water resources. Please donate today to the Water Protection Fund. More information about the Sleepy Creek Lands project can be found on the SJRWMD’s website: http://www.sjrwmd.com/facts/AdenaSpringsRanchCUP.html

You can donate to the Water Protection Fund by clicking this link: WATER PROTECTION FUND.  If you would like to donate to the SLC General Use Fund, please click the Donate Now button at the top of this page.  You can also click on the Support Our Work tab to see other ways to support SLC.  Posted July 2014.

SLC RECOGNIZED FOR ADVOCACY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

SLC learned it will be awarded The Florida Bar Foundation's Stephen M. Goldstein Award for Excellence in June 2014. The award recognizes a significant project undertaken by a Florida Bar Foundation Legal Assistance for the Poor grantee. SLC won for its work on Moreland v. Palmer (N.D. Fla.), which achieved a mediated settlement on behalf of 9,000 persons with developmental disabilities whose Medicaid Waiver iBudgets were reduced by the Florida Agency for Persons With Disabilities. APD agreed to provide notices that detail the reasons for reductions, and to provide the notice to guardians and other representatives and in the client’s primary language. SLC attorneys worked with private pro bono attorney Nancy Wright. Stephen M. Goldstein was respected for his advocacy of the poor and disadvantaged. Through cases like Moreland v. Palmer, the attorneys at SLC are continuing Steve’s dedication to improving the quality of life for those who otherwise would have no voice in the law. Posted March 2014.

CITY OF TITUSVILLE PAYS HOMELESS MEN FOR ITS DESTRUCTION OF PERSONAL PROPERTY

SLC obtained a settlement of money damages for two men whose personal property was destroyed in June 2011 by the City of Titusville.  In preparation for the final shuttle launch, the City of Titusville cleared eleven homeless encampments, destroying the personal property of a number of individuals who lived at these camps.  Titusville’s unlawful actions deprived people of personal belongings that are critical to their survival, such as clothing, medication, tents and blankets, as well as irreplaceable personal possessions, such as family photographs, personal records and documents, and even the ashes of a deceased parent contained in an urn. Last year, we achieved a mediated settlement on behalf of four other men.  Posted February 2014.

SLC FILES SUNSHINE LAW CASE AGAINST CITY OF ST. PETERSBURG

SLC, on behalf of Rev. Bruce Wright, filed a lawsuit against the City of St. Petersburg with the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court alleging violations of Florida's Sunshine Law. The lawsuit alleges that the City Council decided to amend a city trespass ordinance in a meeting that was closed to the public. Rev. Wright asks the circuit court to declare that the City’s amended ordinance is void due to the City’s failure to follow proper procedures and open its deliberations to the public at all times. Read the press release and the complaint.  Posted 11/26/2013

SLC FILES FIRST AMENDMENT CHALLENGE AGAINST THE CITY OF ST. PETERSBURG

SLC, on behalf of Rev. Bruce Wright, filed a federal lawsuit today against the City of St. Petersburg, alleging violations of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The City banned him for one year from Williams Park where the Reverend frequently advocated for homeless individuals and protested City policies. Rev. Wright, an ordained minister and longtime homeless advocate, is challenging his year-long exclusion. Rev. Wright is not allowed to go into the park for any reason without risking arrest for trespassing. The City's trespass ordinance has a provision that allows people to petition the City for permission to re-enter the park, but the procedure gives too much discretion to city officials to grant/deny permits and fails to contain adequate procedural safeguards. Rev. Wright is separately challenging the City’'s decision to issue him a trespass warning in a case filed in state circuit court in Pinellas County. The federal lawsuit filed today focuses on Rev. Wright’s freedom of expression rights caused by the trespass warning. Read the press release and the complaint. Posted 10/30/2013.

APD AGREES TO REINSTATE iBUDGETS AND ISSUE NEW NOTICES TO ABOUT 9,000 INDIVIDUALS

Roddie Moreland has an intellectual disability and significant other medical conditions, including epilepsy, that require 24 hour supervision and care to ensure his health and safety. To allow him to live in the community with his family instead of in an institution, Mr. Moreland receives Medicaid waiver services for persons with Developmental Disabilities, a program administered by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). On June 1, 2012, Mr. Moreland received a letter from APD stating that he was going to receive a $15,000 cut to his benefits. APD gave no explanation for its decision to cut his benefits by this amount.

Mr. Moreland was not alone; more than 9,000 Medicaid waiver clients received similar notices that their benefits were going to be reduced without an adequate explanation. Mr. Moreland, and nine other individuals, filed Moreland, et. al. v. Palmer against APD based on the inadequate notices for violations of their due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the federal Medicaid Act. SLC, in cooperation with private disability rights attorney Nancy E. Wright, obtained a preliminary injunction against APD. After two oral arguments and a 10 hour evidentiary hearing, the Honorable Mark Walker, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Florida, found the notices were inadequate and ordered the agency not to reduce Plaintiffs’ benefits until it provided adequate notice.

After a 14 hour mediation, the parties reached a settlement agreement that includes the following policy changes: reinstatement of all benefits for clients whose benefits were reduced based on the notices; APD will send a new notice to a settlement class of 9,000 people; the parties agreed to language for a new notice so that people understand why they are receiving reductions in benefits and know whether to request a hearing; APD agreed to send notices to the clients and to their guardian advocates or other legal representatives and in their primary language. The Court preliminarily approved the settlement on October 3, 2013. A fair hearing is scheduled for November 13. Follow these links to read the Settlement Agreement and Notice of Proposed Class Action Settlement.

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SLC'S NEW WEB DESIGN WAS GENEROUSLY DONATED BY TONY PECORA AT NORTHC CONSULTING.  THANK YOU TONY!