The Supreme Court of Florida on Friday refused to grant a writ of mandamus to Senate Democrats who were seeking to compel the Florida House to return to Tallahassee to finish the 2015 regular legislative session. But five of the seven justices opined that the House’s actions violated the state Constitution as the Democrats argued.
In a unanimous ruling, the court denied the write of mandamus because Democrats failed to show that the issuance of the writ of mandamus “would produce any beneficial result.”
Justice Barbara Pariente wrote a separate opinion that four of the justices — Peggy Quince, Jorge Labarga, R. Fred Lewis and E.C. Perry — agreed with, noting that the court’s denial of the petition “does not constitute an endorsement of the House’s interpretation of the constitutional language.
“To the contrary, in my view, the House’s unilateral adjournment clearly violated the Constitution. Article III, section 3(e), provides that “[n]either House shall adjourn for more than seventy-two consecutive hours except pursuant to concurrent resolution,” Pariente wrote.
“The House’s contrary interpretation—that one house may not unilaterally adjourn during the session for more than seventy-two consecutive hours if it does intend to return, but may unilaterally adjourn sine die for more than seventy-two consecutive hours to conclude the session with no plan to return—is antithetical to the intent of article III, section 3(e). That constitutional provision clearly does not permit one house to adjourn in any fashion for more than seventy-two consecutive hours without the consent of the other house.”
Meanwhile, Justice Charles T. Canady agreed with the ruling and in a separate opinion added that he would “deny the petition on the additional ground that the petitioners have failed to establish a clear legal right to compel the presence of the House of Representatives until midnight on May 1, 2015.” Justice Ricky Polston agreed with Canady’s opinion.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli sent a memo to his members saying that the court had denied the request and that members didn’t need to return to town.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats praised Pariente’s opinion, which the majority of justices agreed with. “We fought to establish a lasting precedent today that both chambers are equal under the law. I am proud that the Supreme Court agreed with us, and that this is now the law of the land for future Florida legislatures,” state Sen Darren Soto said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Senate President Andy Gardiner in a statement thanked the Senate Democrats and Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner for pursuing the suit.
“I appreciate Leader Joyner and the efforts of her caucus to seek a swift answer to this important constitutional question. While the writ of mandamus was denied because the court could not impose a practical remedy prior to midnight tonight, a majority of the court agreed with the Senate position that the House violated the constitution. This provides important guidance to future presiding officers.
“The Senate was ready and prepared to continue working to complete the business of the state regardless of the outcome of today’s ruling. Cooperation and collaboration between the chambers should not require a court order. My colleagues and I look forward to returning to Tallahassee in short order to complete the work we were elected to do.”