Colson Hicks Eidson partner Bob Martinez recently co-authored an article for The Florida Bar Journal that highlights a significant change to Florida’s Constitution. Mr. Martinez served as a member from 2017-18 of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (“the CRC”), which is authorized to propose amendments to the Florida Constitution for voter approval.
In 2018the voters approved one of the amendments proposed by the CRC that was introduced by Mr. Martinez as its principal sponsor. That amendment prohibits all Florida state courts and administrative officers from deferring to an administrative agency’s interpretation of statutes and rules they are charged to administer, and must instead interpret such statute or rule de novo. This kind of interpretation is referred to as “agency deference.”
THE NEW LAW IN FLORIDA’S CONSTITUTION
As a result of the amendment, Florida’s Constitution now requires any state court or administrative officer to make a legal interpretation of a state statute or rule independent of an agency’s interpretation in any litigation between a private and a government agency of Florida.
Mr. Martinez and the authors write that agency deference often lead to unfair judgments in favor of the government, leaving disadvantaged private parties in its wake. The abolition of agency deference will effectively enhance the independence of the judiciary and protect the due process rights of all private litigants by “leveling the playing field” in all legal proceedings against the government on a matter dealing with the legal interpretation of a statute of rule. The government will no longer get the unfair advantage of saying what the law is. The judiciary will make that independent interpretation after listening to all sides equally.
WHAT IS AGENCY DEFERENCE?
The concept of judicial officials deferring to agencies for the legal interpretation of a statute is not new. At the federal level, this is known as “Chevron Deference,” which originated from the 1984 case Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984). This case held that the court and agencies must follow the expressed intent of Congress when analyzing an unambiguous statute. But, if the statute is unclear, a court may not substitute its own interpretation of the statute for a reasonable interpretation made by the agency.
Florida’s version of “Chevron Deference” was simply known as “agency deference.” This was abolished as of January 8, 2019, the day the amendment took effect.
OPPOSITION TO AGENCY DEFERENCE
Agency deference has always been a controversial concept. As Attorney Martinez and the co-authors of the article for The Florida Bar Journal point out, “The erosion of individual liberty, due process, and the separation of powers, as a result of the agency deference doctrine, dominated Florida’s administrative law jurisprudence for the greater part of the last century.”
THE TEAM AT COLSON HICKS EIDSON IS ACTIVE IN THE LEGAL COMMUNITY
At Colson Hicks Eidson, our lawyers are more than just successful courtroom trial lawyers. They are also actively involved in the legal community in Florida and throughout the United States. We are proud of the work by our partner Bob Martinez for his work on the Florida Constitution Revision Commission advancing the right of private parties and for co-authoring this article in the Florida Bar Journal.
Every member of our team has a deep understanding of legal issues, and we closely watch changes to Florida and federal laws. By ensuring that we stay on top of these changes, we are making a guarantee to our clients – that we are the best attorneys for handling their legal matters.
Our award-winning law firm has recovered more than $1 billion in injury settlements and verdicts for clients in Florida and throughout the United States. All of our lawyers have worked to build Colson Hicks Eidson into a nationally recognized firm that stands up for the rights of all our clients. You can contact us for a free consultation by clicking here or by calling us at 305-476-7400.