Tom Appeals Blog

News and Observations About Law and Society

"As long as I have any choice, I will stay only in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule." - Albert Einstein

Florida Supreme Court overturns mandatory attorney’s fee schedule for workers’ compensation cases

Posted: April 28, 2016 Filed under: Case Law, Law-Related News

By a vote of 5 to 2, the Supreme Court of Florida today declared the  mandatory fee schedule in section 440.34, Florida Statutes, unconstitutional in Castellanos v. Next Door Company

This case asks us to evaluate the constitutionality of the mandatory fee schedule in section 440.34, Florida Statutes (2009), which eliminates the requirement of a reasonable attorney’s fee to the successful claimant. Considering that the right of a claimant to obtain a reasonable attorney’s fee has been a critical feature of the workers’ compensation law, we conclude that the mandatory fee schedule in section 440.34, which creates an irrebuttable presumption that precludes any consideration of whether the fee award is reasonable to compensate the attorney, is unconstitutional under both the Florida and United States Constitutions as a violation of due process.

Justices Canady and Polston dissented. Justice Canady began by stating “the majority fail[ed] to directly address the actual policy of the statute,” which he described as a “determination by the Legislature that there should be a reasonable relationship between the value of the benefits obtained in litigating a workers’ compensation claim and the amount of attorney’s fees the employer or carrier is required to pay to the claimant.” Justice Polston believes the majority opinion “has rewritten the statute to avoid the standard governing facial challenges.”

The opinion is available HERE.

Court Continues Trend of Enhancing Proposed Discipline

Posted: April 26, 2016 Filed under: Commentary, Law-Related News

With yesterday’s order in the case of Seminole County Judge Jerri Collins, The Supreme Court of Florida continues its trend of rejecting proposed discipline of lawyers and judges that the Court views as too light.
[T]he Court rejects the Stipulation and disapproves the proposed sanction. In addition to the public reprimand agreed to in the Stipulation, the Court would require successful completion of an anger management course and attendance at the domestic violence course offered during Phase II of the Florida Judicial College. Should the parties agree to these terms, a revised consent judgment shall be filed with the Court within thirty days of the date of this order.
If the parties do not agree to these terms, the parties must inform the Court within thirty days that they have not reached an agreement. In that event, this case (SC16-548) will be returned for a hearing before the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Read the Florida Supreme Court’s order HERE.

Florida Murder Convictions Overturned Because of Illegally Obtained Confession

Posted: April 21, 2016 Filed under: Case Law

Today, in State v. McAdams, No. 14-826 (Fla. April 21, 2016), the Supreme Court of Florida held:

[W]hen a person is questioned in a location that is not open to the public, and an attorney retained on his or her behalf appears at the location, the Due Process Clause of the Florida Constitution requires that law enforcement notify the person with regard to the presence and purpose of the attorney, regardless of whether he or she is in custody.

Two justices concurred in part and dissented in part because the majority applied the rule to voluntary interactions with law enforcement officers. The concurring justices would limit the rule to confessions obtained only after the suspect is in custody.

According to the opinion, “compelling evidence of McAdams’s guilt was presented to the jury through his confession, in which he admitted that after being berated by his estranged wife and her new boyfriend at the Palomino Lake Drive residence, he became outraged, retrieved a gun from outside the residence, fatally shot them, buried the bodies in a rural area, and disposed of the weapon.” Because the unlawfully obtained confession contributed to the convictions, the court overturned the convictions.

Admitted: Florida, Kansas, New Mexico (inactive)