Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Prescription for Improved Local Decision Making: Let's have a local government APA

I've preached for years that local government quasi-judicial decision making was a mess. My first article looked at the consistency doctrine and its implementation, and the issues raised by Snyder (and predicted some of the problems that would ensue). In 1996, Stetson Law Review published this article of mine that reviewed the gamut of issues associated with quasi-judicial decisionmaking by city and county commissions. I ended that article by calling for a "Local Government APA" - an adaption of the full Chapter 120 designed to address the specific issues of the conduct and review of quasi-judicial hearings at the local level.

So years have gone by, and the Legislature has not acted. In the meantime, Florida's Growth Management experiment has been significantly harmed by the gross discretion afforded the local commissioners by current procedures - and lack of effective review.

This harms both developers and affected neighbors - there simply isn't a truly fair hearing process, and the "cert" remedy is completely insufficient. If we're going to be serious about implementing growth management, local government discretion must be kept in check by the judiciary. We already have 2 branches - the legislative and administrative -- combined in one body, and without effective judicial review of quasi-judicial decisions, they control all three. And the result is what's predicted when the seperation of powers fails: tyranny and despotism.

So I've taken it upon myself to draft a first cut of an Local Government Administrative Procedures and Review Act, and here it is.

Here's the scoop: the House Growth Management Committee is going to be holding hearings starting this week all over the state. The last one is next Friday in Ft. Myers. I intend to send it to the Committee and introduce it there, with the (admittedly very small) hope that the Legislators will finally take a real thought about the procedural infirmities in the current system and the way that they lead to lack of accountability and implementation.

I would love to have your comments and feedback over the next week.

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