Attorneys representing Death Row inmates want the Florida Supreme Court to block the controversial “Timely Justice Act” that is intended to reduce final delays in carrying out the death penalty, reports the News Service of Florida.
In a challenge filed Wednesday, the attorneys contend that sections of the law signed June 14 by Gov. Rick Scott are unconstitutional. They allege, in part, that the law would violate the separation of powers by imposing obligations on lawyers that conflict with judicially-determined rules. They also say it would alter the court’s authority to govern capital post-conviction litigation and would violate due process and equal protection.
“It is clear that, when the Legislature restricts this court s authority to reach final ruling on constitutional matters by creating a time-certain limit on capital litigation and rejects procedural vehicles recognized by this court as necessary components to ensuring the constitutionality of capital convictions and death sentences, it violates this court s authority to be the ultimate interpreter of the Florida Constitution,” said the lawsuit, first reported Wednesday by The Palm Beach Post.
Scott’s office has repeatedly contended that the law, which takes effect July 1, doesn’t “fast-track” the death penalty process and will not increase the risk of executing innocent people as some critics have argued. Instead, Scott’s office says the bill makes “technical amendments to current law and provides clarity and transparency to legal proceedings.” The measure includes several changes in the death-penalty process. As an example, the act requires the clerk of the Florida Supreme Court to notify the governor when a Death Row inmate’s state and federal court appeals have been completed. The governor would then have 30 days to issue a death warrant if the executive clemency process has finished. The warrant would require that the execution be carried out within 180 days.
In the conclusion of the new challenge, the attorneys noted that during the House floor debate some legislators discussed that the law would likely result in additional delays “by creating constitutional deficiencies in the system, and that courts would have to issue stays to review the act s functioning.”