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Siesta Key Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 9 years ago

Florida Supreme Court to hear term-limits cases

by: Rachel Brown Hackney Managing Editor

The Florida Supreme Court has announced it will hear oral arguments April 10 in county commission term-limits cases from Sarasota and Broward counties.

Sarasota attorney Andrea Mogensen, representing 16 plaintiffs who filed suit against Sarasota County over term limits in November, and David Persson, the Longboat Key town attorney, whom the county hired to represent it in the case, both are preparing to appear before the court in Tallahassee.

Mogensen filed a brief in the case Feb. 21, her paralegal, Michael Barfield, said. Persson plans to file his brief Feb. 27.

Persson said his brief would be “in support of the term-limits provision that was placed within the county charter by the voters within the county.”

Persson was referring to a Sept. 1, 1998, Sarasota County Charter amendment, approved by 68% of the voters who cast ballots, which called for a two-term limit for the county commissioners.

Sarasota County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh said during a County Commission meeting in November that Persson would argue in favor of the term limits, just as Persson did when he represented the county in a 2004 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of those limits.

Mogensen said in November that she expected her argument in future hearings on her clients’ case would differ from Persson’s primarily in regard to the effectiveness date of the term limits.

Mogensen’s brief in the Florida Supreme Court case says the Florida Constitution “does not impose any restrictions on county voters’ decision to impose term limits in a charter provision.”

The brief also says Senior Judge Jack R. Schoonover erred in a Nov. 21 emergency hearing, in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, when he denied Mogensen’s motion to dissolve a 2005 injunction against the imposition of County Commission term limits. Mogensen’s brief says a Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling, which said Broward County Commission term limits are constitutional, “constituted binding precedent.”

The Fourth District Court handed down its ruling in August.

After the Florida Supreme Court agreed last year to hear an appeal of the Fourth District Court of Appeal case, Mogensen asked the Second District Court of Appeal to bump up an appeal of her clients’ case to the Florida Supreme Court.

She said in a motion filed in mid-December that the Sarasota County case involved similar points of law.
The Second District Court of Appeal issued its order Jan. 23, asking the high court to combine the Sarasota and Broward county cases, because that “would preserve judicial economy.”

The appeals court also noted that Sarasota County had a County Commission election scheduled later this year, and a candidate could be affected by the outcome of the cases.

Commissioner Jon Thaxton is seeking a fourth term. The candidate qualification period formally begins at noon June 4 and ends at noon June 8.

Thaxton said in December that he would stay in the race as long as he legally could do so.

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