Areas of Service - Other Civil Rights
SLC will advocate for other civil rights as the issues arise. Following is a sample of civil rights cases we have pursued that are not listed in any of our other areas.
Access to Courts
The Florida Bar v. Furman, 376 So. 2d 378 (Fla. 1979), discussed in S. Maher, No Bono: The Efforts of the Supreme Court of Florida to Promote the Full Availability of Legal Services, 41 U. Miami L. Rev. 973 (1987). Co-counsel: Public Citizen Litigation Group.
Represented paralegal who was prosecuted by the Bar for unauthorized practice of law based on the assistance she provided to self-filers seeking uncontested divorces. This case addressed the issue of citizen access to domestic relations courts. Evidence was presented on the statewide inaccessibility of lawyers for persons seeking standardized or uncontested judicial relief who were unable to afford counsel. The Florida Supreme Court permitted Furman to prepare standardized legal forms and written instructions provided she rendered no personalized legal advice in their completion. Most significant was the Florida Supreme Court’s directive to the Bar to undertake a study of Florida's unmet legal needs and to propose solutions to the Court. The Court-required study was conducted by the Bar through the Center for Governmental Responsibility at the University of Florida College of Law. The "Furman Study" (as it is commonly known) recommended systemic changes which would make Florida's legal system more accessible to poor and middle income persons. The recommendations led to the creation of the Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) Program for funding legal services for the poor and the adoption of simplified divorce procedures and other reforms. The case also was a predicate for an on-going examination of legal access needs, including the Joint Commission on Delivery of Legal Services to the Indigent.
The Florida Bar v. Moses, 380 So.2d 412, 109 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2509 (Fla. 1980).
SLC represented labor relations consultant charged with unauthorized practice of law for representing his employer in a state administrative proceeding. This case established precedent that resolved the conflict between the Supreme Court's authority to regulate the practice of law and the Legislature's authority to provide for and regulate administrative agency proceedings. Contrary to the Bar’s argument that the Administrative Procedures Act provisions allowing non-lawyer advocates were unconstitutional, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature has the authority to allow qualified lay advocates to represent others in administrative proceedings. Following this decision, SLC participated extensively in the drafting of model rules governing representative appearances of lay advocates before state agencies. These rules were subsequently adopted by the Governor and Cabinet.
Askew v. Firestone, 421 So. 2d 151 (Fla. 1982).
This case of first impression challenged the inclusion of a proposed state constitutional amendment on Florida's November 1982 ballot. The amendment was sought by state legislators to eliminate a ban on their lobbying within two years of leaving office. SLC served as lead counsel representing former Florida Governor Reuben Askew, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida, arguing that the language summarizing the amendment on the ballot was misleading to voters because it failed to advise them adequately of the amendment's purpose. The Florida Supreme Court struck the proposed amendment from the ballot on the grounds that its language was misleading. This was the first time in Florida's history that a ballot measure was stricken by the Court. The case led to additional ballot summary challenges and highlighted Florida's need for more comprehensive legislation in this area which was eventually enacted.
Scharps v. Hill (Supervisor of Elections for Alachua County, Fla.), Board of County Comm’rs of Alachua County, & Alachua County Labor Party (Intervenor-Defendants), 855 So.2d 195 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003).
This case involved an issue of first impression in the state about whether a County can place a non-binding referendum on a ballot which concerns subjects that are judicially determined to be outside the power of County government. SLC represented the Intervenors, a community organization, the Alachua County Labor Party, in an appeal of a Circuit Court decision finding that the Alachua County Commission (Commission) lacked the power under Florida law to place non-binding “straw ballot” initiatives on an election ballot to poll the sentiments of voters on particular matters. The Labor Party requested that the Commission place a non-binding referendum on the November 2000 election ballot which asked whether voters favored the creation of a state universal health care system that would provide all residents with comprehensive health care coverage through the creation of a publicly administered health insurance trust fund. The circuit court’s decision was reversed and the appellate court held that the plaintiff had no standing to bring the case.
Conditions of Confinement
Arias v. Wainwright, Case No. TCA 79-792 (N.D. Fla., J. Stafford).
Co-counsel in statewide class action challenging the conditions of confinement for adult pre-trial detainees in all of Florida's municipal and county jails. Significant precedent established on liability of state correctional agency for local jail conditions where the state agency did not own or operate jails, but had only had an inspection duty under state law. Also precedential regarding the application of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 to a structural relief suit where the sheriffs and local jail officials were not named as party defendants. Case settled with comprehensive statewide decree. Interlocutory opinions by trial court used in other cases outside of Florida asserting similar system-wide claims even though local facilities were not under state agency control. Result of Arias decree in Florida has been more aggressive monitoring by Department of Corrections of local jails to assure their compliance with federal and state law. SLC was lead counsel on the issues involving the jailing of juveniles and the effect of the Florida Administrative Procedure Act on the promulgation and substantive content of uniform standards for jail operations. The revised standards from this work and the enforcement mechanisms associated with the standards were included in the consent decree approved by the court.
Fane v. Florida State Bd. of Accountancy, Case No. 88-10140 (N.D. Fla., J. Paul), 945 F.2d 1514, reh. denied, 952 F.2d. 413 (11th Cir. 1991), aff'd sub nom Edenfield v. Fane, 507 U.S. 761 (1993). Co-counsel: Public Citizen Litigation Group (SLC was local counsel)
This was a First Amendment challenge to the restrictions on CPA’s from soliciting business in person. The Court entered summary judgment for plaintiff on grounds that Florida’s ban was an impermissible restriction of commercial speech in violation of the First Amendment. District Court opinion was affirmed with opinions by the Eleventh Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.
Police misconduct cases involving false arrest, excessive force or other policies or customs that violate the civil rights of our clients.
Representation of Minors in Judicial Waiver Proceedings
Through this project, we provide representation in emergency state court hearings for minors who seek a judicial waiver of the requirement in § 390.01114, Fla. Stat. (2005), that a parent be notified before a minor can terminate a pregnancy. The United States Supreme Court has held that parental notification laws such as the one in Florida must have a judicial waiver option. As part of this work, we filed a successful appeal of the denial of a petition for judicial waiver to the First District Court of Appeals, on the grounds that the Circuit Court Judge misinterpreted the statutory standards, In re Jane Doe, 924 So. 2d 935 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006). This opinion is one of the first to interpret the substantive interpretation and application of § 390.01114, Fla. Stat., and addresses issues of first impression in the First District Court of Appeals.
Tummino, et al. v. Hamburg, Cmm’r of the Food & Drug Admin., Case No. 05-366 (E.D.N.Y., J. Korman); 603 F. Supp. 2d 519 (E.D. N.Y. 2009). Co-Counsel: Center for Reproductive Rights.
SLC represented the individual plaintiffs, several women active with women’s rights organizations in Gainesville, New York and Tennessee, on behalf of a class of all women that need access to the “Morning-After Pill” (MAP) (also known as “emergency contraception” or “Plan B”). This challenge under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and the right to privacy and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution is based on the FDA’s denial of a citizen petition to approve MAP as an over-the-counter drug. The case seeks to challenge the agency’s failure to act upon firm medical and scientific evidence, but, instead, on the anti-reproductive rights policies of the Bush administration. Ultimately, the FDA agreed to approve the drug for women 18 years and older. The remaining issue was with regard to 17 year olds. The court ruled on the motions for summary judgment, issuing an order that rejected the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to limit over-the-counter access to Plan B to women over 18, ruling that it was based on politics and ideology, rather than science. The court ordered the agency to reconsider its decision. It also ordered the FDA to act within 30 days to extend over-the-counter access to 17 year olds.
Right to Treatment
Canupp, et al. v. Liberty Behavioral Health Corp., Case No. 2:04-CV-260-FTM-33DNG (M.D. Fla., J. Covington). Co-Counsel: Florida Institutional Legal Services.
This class action challenged the lack of an effective treatment regimen and adequate mental health care at the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC). Approximately 450 men are currently detained at FCCC, with more arriving every day, under Florida’s Jimmy Ryce Act. The State’s failure to provide constitutionally adequate treatment makes their confinement essentially a life sentence. The Court certified the case as a class and created two sub-classes. A mediated settlement was reached. The Department of Children and Families did not agree to an enforceable settlement, but promised the following in a written settlement plan: improvements to the oversight and staffing of the inpatient mental health unit, the creation of policies addressing the screening and referral process for the use of anti-androgens, comprehensive discharge planning for Phase IV residents, improvements to the special track of treatment, and improved training for clinical staff and TST housing staff. The settlement plan explains what the Defendant will do to address each issue, when the improvements will happen, and who is responsible for making sure the improvements occur.