Proposed Legislation 2014
Florida Capital Resource Center's Legislative Initiatives to Watch
This page was created to inform the public of important legislative activity in Tallahassee that is either specific to capital litigation or that will significantly affect Florida's criminal justice system as a whole. Working with others, FCRC helps support certain legislative initiatives in the areas of capital justice and criminal procedure aimed to protect the rights of Florida's indigent defendants.
The following is a list of bills we are watching for the Spring 2014 Legislative Session:
Unanimous Sentencing in Capital Felonies: Requires that the finding of aggravating circumstances and an advisory sentence of death come from a unanimous jury rather than the current "majority" rule. Florida Capital Resource Center SUPPORTS this act.
- Senate Bill: SB 334
- House Bill: HB 467
- RESULT: Died in Committees (Senate Criminal Justice Committee/House Criminal Justice Subcommittee)
Jury Composition: Provides that 12-member juries would be required for all life felony trials. Currently, 12-member juries are only required for capital trials. Florida Capital Resource Center SUPPORTS this act.
- Senate Bill: CS/SB 94
- House Bill: CS/HB 39
- RESULT: Died in Committees (Senate Appropriations Committee/House Appropriations Subcommittee)
Court-Appointed Counsel: Provides for the creation of the Cross-Circuit Conflict Representation Pilot Program under which specified public defender offices will act as conflict-counsel for other public defender offices before private attorneys are appointed to the case. This bill would also eliminate the limited registries and increase the statutory fees for private court-appointed attorneys in specified cases. Florida Capital Resource Center OPPOSES this act in its current form. While the limited registires have been problematic with regard to ensuring effective counsel for indigent defendants (and FCRC believes they should be elimintated), and everyone acknowledges that the statutory fees paid to private court-appointed attorneys are far too low to ensure the courts' ability to provide quality representation to indigent defendants (see the report on this subject released by the Office of the State Courts Administrator last year), the Cross-Circuit Conflict Representation Pilot Program would likely result in a disproportionate number of cases moving from large offices to smaller offices, increasing the caseload of those smaller offices beyond capacity. This could create a tremendous financial burden for those smaller offices and severely compromise their ability to provide effective representation to their clients.
- Senate Bill: SPB 7098
- RESULT: This bill was amended in several significant ways and PASSED as SB 2510. After amendment, the bill accomplished several things. First, it eliminated the limited registries. Second, it raised the statutory maximum flat fees in serious criminal cases. Third, it created the Cross-Circuit Conflict Representation Pilot Program, though amendments reduced the size and scope of the program to just several offices, and it will only effect cases in which the defendant is charged with second- or third-degree murder, aleviating some of the concerns about the financial impact the original bill would have had on smaller offices. Finally (and significantly), later amendments also shifted the full burden of paying attorney's fees for private conflict-counsel back to the Justice Administrative Commission, such that excess fees beyond the statutory flat rates will no longer be paid by the State Courts System.
Prospective Appointment of Judicial Vacancies: Currently, under the Florida Constitution, the Governor's power to appoint justices to the Florida Supreme Court or judges to the District Courts of Appeal does not manifest itself until the sitting justice or judge's term expires. However, in certain instances, there may be a justice or judge whose term expires the same day the sitting governor's term ends. If the sitting governor was not reelected or has termed-out, the question becomes, should the outgoing or incoming governor be the one to make the appointment? Though this situation does not often arise, three of Florida's Supreme Court Justices - Justices Lewis, Pariente, and Quince - will hit the 70-year mandatory retirement age in the next governor's term, meaning their terms would all expire on January 8, 2019 - inauguration day for the incoming governor. This bill proposes amendments to the Florida Constitution that would allow a sitting governor to make "prospective appointments" before the retiring justice or judge's term expires. As Justices Lewis, Pariente, and Quince are considered the "liberal block" on the Florida Supreme Court, this bill has been the subject of much political debate. On one hand, it would probably be good to clarify what happens in such a situation to avoid the inevitable constitutional legal challenges that could arise. On the other hand, should a governor who has been voted out of office months earlier have the power to appoint justices to the Florida Supreme Court on his or her way out the door, particularly given the influence and long-lasting effects those apointments can have?
- Joint Resolution: CS/SJR 1188
- RESULT: This proposed amendment has PASSED and will appear on the ballot as a proposed Constitutional Amendment in November 2014.
A strong democracy requires the participation of the People. Be sure to keep up with the legislative session by visiting the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate on the web! We encourage you to write your representatives to express the importance of the above bills. To find out who your representatives are in each house, click here: