PB: Palmer Trinity Lawsuit Hearing Tomorrow Night
Palmetto Bay released the agenda for tomorrow night’s (June 18, 2012) Committee of the Whole meeting. Of particular importance is item 2:
Discussion re: Village of Palmetto Bay v. Palmer Trinity Private School, Third District Court of Appeal Appellate Court Case No.: No. 3D12-190; Lower Tribunal No. 10-259
SDM knows what you are thinking: Is this a typo? The Village of Palmetto Bay is FINALLY going to publicly discuss its ill-fated and quixotic attack on the Palmer Trinity School? Apparently, yes.
Then again, don’t get your hopes up too much. This council does the bidding of a group of fanatics – that’s really the only fair way of characterizing them. SDM hears that some of the SOPs want to take the lawsuit to the Florida Supreme Court!
Let’s take a look at whether this case has such a chance. Here is how the Florida Supreme Court describes its jurisdiction:
The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is set out in the Constitution with some degree of flexibility by which the Legislature may add or take away certain categories of cases. The Court must review final orders imposing death sentences, district court decisions declaring a State statute or provision of the State Constitution invalid, bond validations, and certain orders of the Public Service Commission on utility rates and services.
In addition to these forms of mandatory review authority, if discretionary review is sought by a party, the Court at its discretion may review any decision of a district court of appeal that expressly declares valid a state statute, construes a provision of the state or federal constitution, affects a class of constitutional or state officers, or directly conflicts with a decision of another district court or of the Supreme Court on the same question of law.
The Supreme Court may review certain categories of judgments, decisions, and questions of law certified to it by the district courts of appeal and federal appellate courts.
The Palmer case does not involve a death sentence – except to taxpayers – and did not declare a state law invalid so those options are off the table. The lawsuit’s question did not involve orders of the PSC so forget that one.
Under the discretionary jurisidiction category, the case did not declare a state law valid, construe a provision of the state or federal constitutions or involve a class of constituional or state officers. Toss those.
Therefore, to get to the Supremes, the case’s decision must directly conflict with a decision of another district court or of the Supreme Court on the same question of law; or, the judgment must be certified to the court by a district court of appeal (because there is no federal question involved.)
The Palmer decision was rendered by the appeals division of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit’s appellate division, which is a court lower to, and under the jurisdiction of, the Third District Court of Appeal.
SDM’s Bottom Line: For Palmetto Bay to get to the Supreme Court, it must go to the Third DCA first.
SDM Correction: An alert reader noted that the Third DCA issued the last opinion in this case when it denied Palmetto Bay’s request for a writ of certiorari. Therefore, Palmetto Bay has already covered the base of going to the district court.
The Palmer case began in 2006, when the school filed its initial application. Yes, you are reading that date correctly. For the beleagured school, its fight against city hall has gone on for SIX years. Repugnant.
If the village decides to appeal, which basically requires paying a filing fee and some lawyers, it will delay the inevitable conclusion of this case by at least another year. For purely political purposes, appealing the decision probably helps Vice Mayor Pariser the most because the final determination wouldn’t come until next year.
However, delaying a resolution to Palmer could also hurt the incumbents running two years from now. Here’s how:
Let’s assume that nobody rushes the case along at the appeals court Supreme Court so the case remains pending until next summer. By then, the cost of the lawsuit – just on Palmetto Bay’s side – will probably reach $750,000.
[SDM Update: An alert reader commented that on July 13, 2012, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled that Palmer was entitled to its attorney's fees and costs to be determined by the circuit court. This means Palmetto Bay taxpayers will pay this expense unless it is covered by a Florida League of Cities insurance policy. SDM figures Palmer's fees will be at least as much as Palmetto Bay's.]
What are the possible outcomes of an appeal?
First, the Third DCA Supreme Court could reject the case outright, meaning Palmetto Bay loses. Second, the court could fully hear the matter and still rule against the village; also a loss. Third, and least likely, the court could rule for the village.
One question for Wednesday night is what would a ruling for the village look like? SDM doesn’t know but the lawyers might take a $600/hour guess. Many times appeals courts issue the Supreme Court issues very narrow decisions essentially sending the matter back for more action by the village.
SDM Code Breaker: At the end of the day, a “victory” for the village may be nothing more than a requirement for another hearing sometime in 2014 just as Mayor, err… Councilwoman Joan Lindsay and Mayor Shelley Stanczyk are running for re-election (assuming village voters amend the term limits provision in the charter).
Of course, any perceived “loss” to Palmer before the next election cycle would have to hurt Mayor Stanczyk more than Councilwoman Lindsay because Lindsay’s supporters are immune to logic. Hell, they may demand Lindsay run against Stanczyk! (Oh, if there is a blog god, give SDM that race.)
SDM P.S.: The village leadership has claimed all along that if they lost to Palmer, the costs of the litigation would be covered by an insurance policy through the Florida League of Cities. SDM Wonders: Will the insurer permit the village to continue this fight? Or, will it cut its losses and require the village to either settle or waive the insurance coverage?
SDM can’t wait to find out.