Legislators: We want to write courts’ rules

first_img Legislators: We want to write courts’ rules Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Despite a warning that they could find themselves worrying about typefaces and font sizes on court submissions, a Florida House Committee approved a constitutional amendment that would have the legislature write all court procedural rules.The straight party-line vote came in the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee PCR HBS 1 on March 3. But the future of the proposal remains questionable as a crucial Senate leader said the measure is unlikely to be considered there.Currently under the Florida Constitution’s Article V, the legislature is essentially given authority over substantive laws and the court is given jurisdiction over procedural rules. The legislature by a two-thirds vote in both chambers can override any procedural rules adopted by the Supreme Court.Under the proposed amendment — which must pass by a three-fifths vote in both the House and Senate and then be approved by voters — the legislature would appoint a judicial conference to draft the rules, which they would then refer to the legislature. Only rules specifically passed by the legislature would go into effect.Any rules not acted on by the next general election would be deemed rejected. The legislature would also have power to enact rules on its own without input from the conference.Tallahassee attorneys Steve Metz and Barry Richard, representing The Florida Bar, argued there has been no serious problem with the present system, and the legislature has only eight times overridden a rule since the modern constitution was adopted in 1968.They suggested copying lawmakers with all proposed rule changes and adding legislative liaisons to court rules committees to smooth out any problems. Richard also noted that less than 1 percent of rules are controversial. “Most are existing rules with minor changes, like the legislature with its revisors’ changes to state law,” he said.The minutiae addressed, he added, includes such details as the allowable margins on briefs and font sizes and typefaces. He also said while the change is likened to the federal system, it would give the legislature far more authority than Congress exerts over federal court rules.But Chair Rep. Gus Barreiro, R-Miami, repeated claims from an earlier meeting that the measure would restore a balance between the legislature and the courts.Rep. Heather Fiorentino, R-New Port Richey, questioned Metz’ and Richard’s solution of having legislators review proposed rules before the Supreme Court acts on them. She noted that the March 1 Bar News listed dozens of proposed rule changes in six different areas, and said she probably wouldn’t have the time.But Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Pompano Beach, said that only illustrated that lawmakers are already too busy to deal with the details of court procedural rules.“I can’t wait until we’re sitting here dealing with the rule on the size of type and the type of font [on court submissions] and if we don’t approve it, it doesn’t pass,” he said. “We are creating a new system, and it is to send a shot across the bow of the Supreme Court.. . . This is wrong; it is an encroachment.”Seiler also repeated the fact that only eight times had the legislature overridden a rule in the past eight years. But Barreiro said in two of those cases, the Supreme Court had come back and reinstated the rule.Richard than replied that he was familiar with one of those cases and the court only reinstated a rule as an interim measure while it worked out new rules in conjunction with legislative wishes.(According to Bar records, in the second case, the court held a law that included a rule repeal unconstitutional, and found the rule repeal was not severable from the rest of the bill. The legislature, according to the records, then passed another bill repealing the rule and the court took no further action.)The committee wound up voting 13-6 to pass the bill, with all Republican members supporting it, and all Democratic members opposing it. Since it is a proposed committee bill, it had not been assigned to any other committees, but Barriero said he hoped it would go before the Judiciary Committee before going to the House floor. A Senate companion, SJR 2378, has been introduced by Sen. Anna Cowin, R-Leesburg.Regardless of House action, it appeared questionable whether the amendment would ever go to voters. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, said he was unlikely to bring the bill before his committee.“I strongly disagree” with the amendment, he said. “The legislature already has authority to repeal rules of procedure and it works just fine. If the legislature was to engage in the writing of [procedural] rules, that would be a flagrant violation of the separation of powers, and I’m not in favor of that.”Voting for the bill in the House Committee were Barreiro, Fiorentino, Rep. Sandra Adams, R- Oviedo, Rep. Rafael Arza, R-Hialeah, Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, Rep. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, Rep. Hugh Gibson, R-Lady Lake, Rep. Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, Rep. Dick Kravitz, R-Orange Park, Rep. Marcelo Llorente, R-Miami, Rep. Mitch Needelman, R-Palm Bay, Rep. Juan-Carlos Planas, R-Miami, and Rep. Juan Zapata, R-Miami. Voting against it were Seiler, Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, Rep. Edward Bullard, D-Miami, Rep. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, Rep. Wilbert Holloway, D-Miami, and Rep Matthew Meadows, D-Lauderhill. Legislators: We want to write courts’ rules March 15, 2004 Senior Editor Regular Newslast_img

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