IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL
OF FLORIDA, FIRST DISTRICT
v. Case No.: 1D18-1679
L.T. No.: 2017-095-CA
TOWN OF WHITE SPRINGS,
a Municipal Corporation Existing
Under the Laws of the State of Florida,
PETITIONER’S RESPONSE IN OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO
DISMISS PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI AS MOOT
Petitioner HELEN MILLER (“Miller”), pursuant to Rule 9.300, Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, and this Court’s Order to Show Cause, dated April 27, 2018, hereby responds in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Respondent TOWN OF WHITE SPRINGS. For the foregoing reasons, Miller respectfully urges this Court to deny the Respondent’s Motion:
1. Miller’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari asks this Court to exercise its certiorari jurisdiction and quash the March 23, 2018 “Order Denying Petition for Certiorari” issued by the circuit court, which upheld the decision of the Town Council of White Springs that Miller forfeited her office by willfully violating express prohibitions of the Town Charter. RECEIVED, 5/3/2018 3:49 PM, Kristina Samuels, First District Court of Appeal
2. Respondent has moved to dismiss Miller’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari for mootness. Respondent contends that “the Appellant’s term of office expire[d] on April 25, 2018 . . . as the Appellant qualified for and successfully ran for election to the ensuing term of office. The Appellant cannot obviously be reinstated to an office the term of which has expired.” Mot. at 2.
3. In Godwin v. State, 593 So. 2d 211, 212 (Fla. 1992), the Florida Supreme Court, while noting that “[a] moot case generally will be dismissed[,]” discussed mootness as follows:
Florida courts recognize at least three instances in which an otherwise moot case will not be dismissed. The first two were stated in Holly v. Auld, 450 So. 2d 217, 218 n.1 (Fla. 1984), where we said “[i]t is well settled that mootness does not destroy an appellate court’s jurisdiction . . . when the questions raised are of great public importance or are likely to recur.” Third, an otherwise moot case will not be dismissed if collateral legal consequences that affect the rights of a party flow from the issue to be determined. See Keezel v. State, 358 So. 2d 247 (Fla. 4th DCA 1978).
Each of the exceptions to the mootness doctrine enunciated in Godwin apply in the instant matter.
4. The issue raised in the Petition—the trial court’s incorrect application of the law, resulting in a departure from the essential requirements of law that deprived Miller of her seat on the Town Council of White Springs—raises a question of great public importance, particularly to the residents of White Springs.
In Ervin v. Capital Weekly Post, Inc., 97 So. 2d 464, 466 (Fla. 1957), the Florida Supreme Court held:
We reiterate that an appellate court does not lose jurisdiction of a cause even though the matter in controversy has become moot as to one or more of the litigants in cases involving wide public interest or where such matters involve the duties and authority of public officials in the administration of law and are of general interest to the people. The future administration of the election law by public officials requires the hearing of the merits of the appeal.
Similarly, the issue raised in Miller’s Petition is of public interest and concerns matters involving the duties and authority of public officials.
5. In Sadowski v. Shevin, 345 So. 2d 330 (Fla. 1977), the appellant, a candidate for a seat in the legislature, did not file his qualification fees in a timely manner, thus precluding him from spending campaign funds. The appellant challenged the constitutionality of the statute that precluded him from spending the campaign funds; during the pendency of this challenge and subsequent appeals, the qualifying period and election passed. The Florida Supreme Court held:
Although the questions in this cause have become moot with the passing of the qualifying time and the election, we feel constrained to retain jurisdiction and resolve the question as to the constitutionality vel non of Section 106.15(1), Florida Statutes, since this is a matter of great public importance in the administration of the law and is of general interest to the public.
Id. at 331-32. Again, similarly, the issues raised in Miller’s Petition should survive the expiration of the term and her subsequent election. See also Hurt v. Naples, 299 So. 2d 17, 19-20 (Fla. 1974) (holding that “an appellate court does not lose
jurisdiction of a cause even though the matter in controversy has become moot as to one or more of the litigants where important public issues are involved and ‘the real merits of the controversy are unsettled.’”).
6. Considering the first mootness exception noted in Godwin, and based on the controlling precedents in Ervin, Sadowski, and Hurt, the issues raised in Miller’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari are of public interest and concern matters involving the duties and authority of public officials. Miller respectfully urges this Court to exercise its certiorari jurisdiction to review this matter.
7. Additionally, the issues raised in Miller’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari, when considered in the context of an elected official, are likely to recur. See Godwin, 593 So. 2d at 212; see also Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit v. State, 115 So. 3d 261, 281 (Fla. 2013) (“the mootness doctrine does not destroy this Court’s jurisdiction in a case where the question before it is of great public importance and is likely to recur.”). As stated in Respondent’s Motion, Miller has been successfully elected to the Town Council. However, she takes office under the “cloud” of being found to have violated provisions of the Town Charter, and further, whether any of her current actions as a member of the Town Council may constitute “interference” as the Town Council previously determined.
8. Finally, the issues raised in Miller’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari concern collateral consequences that affect Miller’s rights. See Godwin, 593 So.
2d at 212-13; Franzen v. Poulos, 604 So. 2d 1260, 1262 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992) (holding that “practical consequences flow” from a church’s determination to discharge an official, even though that official subsequently resigned, and that the matter thus fell within a mootness exception). As stated in the Petition, the Town Council deprived Miller of her elected seat, which courts consider a property right that cannot be deprived without due process of law. See, e.g., Williams v. Kelly, 133 Fla. 244, 246, 182 So. 881, 882 (Fla. 1938). The rights, responsibilities, and benefits of being a Town Council member (including being paid a salary), which the Town Council erroneously deprived Miller of, are collateral consequences of its decision that also merit review of the Petition.
WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing, Petitioner Helen Miller respectfully requests that this Court deny Respondent’s Motion to Dismiss, and that this Court exercise its certiorari jurisdiction in this matter.
MESSER CAPARELLO, P.A.
2618 Centennial Place
Tallahassee, FL 32308
Telephone: (850) 222-0720
Facsimile: (850) 224-4359