Florida Appellate Court Grants Dismissal of Appeal in Favor of Firm Client
Rabin Kammerer Johnson announces the favorable conclusion of a recent appeal in the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal (“Fourth DCA”), Standing Up for Florida, Inc. v. Wendy Sartory Link, in Her Official Capacity as the Supervisor of Elections of Palm Beach Cty., Fla., Case No. 4D22-0211.
The case was originally filed in the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, in Palm Beach County, against the firm’s client, the Supervisor of Elections of Palm Beach County (“SOE”). The complaint requested the court to declare invalid, and to enjoin SOE from verifying, certain petition forms that were submitted to SOE in support of an initiative to amend the Florida Constitution. Proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution are permitted pursuant to a citizen’s initiative process, which involves gathering a requisite number of signed petitions to place such initiative on the ballot for the next election.
Standing Up for Florida, Inc. (“SUF”)—a political action committee—alleged that FVC-PAC—another political action committee—was hiring professional petition gatherers who violated Florida’s election laws and submitted illegally-obtained petitions to SOE. The alleged claims arose from SOE’s duty under section 100.371, Florida Statutes, to verify whether signatures on submitted petition forms are valid in order to place an initiative on the ballot. SUF sought a declaratory judgment that certain petitions were illegally obtained and to enjoin SOE from verifying such petition forms.
After a hearing, the lower court dismissed SUF’s complaint with prejudice, holding that SUF lacked standing to bring the case because section 100.371, Florida Statutes, did not provide a private cause of action to enforce the provisions SUF sought to enforce. SUF appealed the lower court’s order to the Fourth DCA.
On appeal, SOE argued that the appeal should be dismissed as moot because the proposed initiative petition did not obtain the constitutionally-required number of verified signatures to be placed on the ballot for the November 2022 General Election. As SOE argued, a case becomes moot when it no longer presents an actual controversy or when the issues have ceased to exist. In this case, the record evidence was devoid of a reasonable expectation that FVC-PAC would pursue the same ballot initiative in another election.
The Fourth DCA agreed and dismissed the appeal as moot.
RKJ partner, Lauren Johnson, represented the SOE in the lower court and on appeal.