A polite 'boo' to Florida Supreme Court rulings on gay-adoption case, Hometown Democracy

Time to update (and second-guess) a couple of recent actions by the Florida Supreme Court. In general it is a waste of time to boo the umpire after the call, yet human nature is to boo anyway. Hey, it's a free country.

The first case was the subject of my March 3 column (Is this 'expert' advice, or butting in?). The issue was whether sections of the Florida Bar should be able to take sides in lawsuits.

I argued no. The Florida Bar is a state-created outfit that regulates lawyers. Even if extra membership in the Bar's individual sections (criminal law, family law, and so forth) is "voluntary," those sections still operate under the Bar banner — they bear the Good Housekeeping seal, so to speak.

In this case, I agreed with the cause that was joined by the Family Law Section of the Bar, a challenge to the state's ban on gay adoption. I just thought that taking sides in such matters is not the proper role of the Florida Bar.

But the Supreme Court disagreed in a 5-2 ruling in June. The majority said that because membership in the Family Law Section is voluntary, and joining the lawsuit was not paid for with compulsory dues, nobody's rights were violated.

Furthermore, even though the Bar's own rules prohibit side-taking in cases of "deep philosophical or emotional division," the court said it would not meddle in the Bar's internal decision.

So the court has set two precedents here, one encouraging freelance side-taking in private lawsuits by the Bar's sections, the other claiming a hands-off attitude over the Bar's decision-making. Here's betting the court comes to regret both.

Next case. This time I agree with the court's decision, but still engage in a little booing over the way it was done. (Some people are never satisfied, are they?)

The case involves Hometown Democracy, the movement to require a local election for major growth decisions in Florida.

The Legislature has been trying to crack down on citizen petitions like Hometown Democracy. One way was by passing a law allowing petition signers to revoke their signatures later.

But the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee ruled that this law was unconstitutional. Our Constitution creates the right of petition; the Legislature does not have the power to monkey around with it, the lower court ruled.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which granted it "expedited" status. On June 17, the Supreme Court agreed that the law was unconstitutional and threw it out without issuing an opinion. The court said that part would come later.

Here is my "boo." This is clearly a case of huge public importance. The Supremes likely bought the logic of the 1st District Court of Appeal, yet they won't say so! Imagine the court trying such a stunt in Bush vs. Gore or the Terri Schiavo case.

A Supreme Court without opinions is more akin to a fortune-telling machine than a law-giving body — you put in your quarter and get back a slip of paper saying "affirmed," "reversed" or whatever. Writing opinions is the court's job; so, with all affection, I am sayin': Fork it over, y'all.

And who am I, to boo such a distinguished body? Just a schmoe in the peanut gallery. Like the fan sitting 300 feet away from the play at the plate, I had a better view than the umpire. Hey, like I said, it's a free country.

A polite 'boo' to Florida Supreme Court rulings on gay-adoption case, Hometown Democracy 07/06/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 7, 2009 9:10am]

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