The Florida Supreme Court will not overturn the governor’s vetoes of money the state owes some residents for destroying their citrus trees. However, justices did appear to agree the homeowners are due their compensation.
A couple decades ago, the state removed the healthy citrus trees of Lee and Broward Counties’ residents in a failed effort to eradicate the bacterial disease citrus canker. But they will now have to continue fighting in their respective circuit courts for the combined $37 million Florida owes them for it. The Florida Supreme Court said it cannot overturn Gov. Rick Scott’s vetoes that would have given them the cash immediately.
"Although it's disappointing they chose not to take it up now, it's not at all what one would call a losing decision," said Bobby Gilbert, the homeowners’ attorney. "If anything, I think that this strengthens our position in the Lee Circuit Court, in the Broward Circuit Court, and the appellate courts that will follow because the entire Supreme Court here made it clear that nobody can ignore the Florida and the U.S. Constitution-- not even Gov. Rick Scott."
In their final response, the majority of justices said they do not think it’s proper to overturn the governor’s vetoes. But they all do appear to recognize the residents’ right to get reimbursed.
Justice Fred Lewis said, “The right to just compensation is among the few rights that separate our nation from the communist dictatorships of past.”
Scott's office said in an email to WGCU that he vetoed the money because of a related ongoing lawsuit in Miami-Dade County.
Justice Barbara Pariente said this in her response: "Adding further insult to injury, the Governor’s veto was based on misinformation that the litigation in these cases was still ongoing when that was not the case."
Lee Circuit Court Judge Keith Kyle told the state to pay Lee County’s residents recently, or submit a response explaining why it won’t within 40 days of the ruling. And Broward residents have a July 31st court date coming up. As for the state’s highest court, it could see this case again after the circuit courts try to deal with the issue.
Below is the official response of Florida Supreme Court Justices on the issue: