Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fla Supremes - Administrative Officers Can't Challenge Constitutionality of Statutes

In The Crossings at Fleming Island CDD v. Lisa Reinhardt Echevarria et al, the Florida Supreme Court issued a well-reasoned opinion that Property Appraisers can't challenge the constitutionality of provisions of state law governing appraisal of property. The problem: understanding the scope of the decision in other contexts.

It has long been held - mostly in cases involving taxation statutes - that a "ministerial officer" cannot challenge the constitutionality of a statute that the officer must implement. The reason - to avoid chaos and executive nullification of legislative acts. Some question had been raised whether a tax appraiser could raise the constitutionality of a provision "defensively" - as a defense to a challenge to a decision by the Appraiser or Value Adjustment Board. Here, the Court put those cases to bed.

The problem: what about a city/county commission challenging the application of a charter provision? a proposed charter provision? an ordinance proposed by initiative? What about "as applied" challenges rather than facial? And can a local government - which is not a "ministerial officer" of the state -- challenge a state statute as violative of the home rule or other provisions of the state constitution?

These issues are not addressed - but I suspect that they will be in the future.

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