Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the post conviction court denying Appellant's motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that the postconviction court properly denied all claims argued in this appeal. In his postconviction motion Defendant raised several ineffective assistance of counsel claims, as well as a claim alleging retroactive application of Riley v. California, 573 U.S. 373 (2014). The postconviction court entered an amended order denying relief on all claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the alleged failures on the part of defense counsel did not rise to the level of ineffective assistance of counsel; and (2) Defendant's claim that he was entitled to a new trial under Riley was procedurally barred because Defendant failed to raise this claim on direct appeal. View "Smith v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the post conviction court summarily denying Defendant's eighth successive motion to vacate his judgment of conviction and sentence, holding that all of Defendant's postconviction claims were legally insufficient or based on allegations that were conclusively refuted by the record. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed. This case concerned Defendant's eighth successive motion to vacate the judgment of conviction and sentence. Along with his eighth successive motion Defendant filed a motion to compel discovery documents from the Office of the State Attorney. The postconviction court summarily denied Defendant's eighth successive postconviction motion and denied his motion to compel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on a newly discovered evidence claim alleging spoliation of evidence and a Brady violation; (2) Defendant was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims; (3) the trial court did not err in summarily denying a standalone actual innocence claim; and (4) because Defendant failed to demonstrate his entitlement to the requested records the postconviction court correctly denied his motion to compel. View "Sweet v. State" on Justia Law

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In this advisory opinion, the Supreme Court approved for placement on the ballot a proposed amendment entitled "Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments," holding that the proposed amendment complies with the single-subject requirement of Fla. Const. art. XI, 3 and that the ballot title and summary comply with Fla. Stat. 101.161(1). The proposed amendment would amend sections 5 and 7 of article XI of the Florida Constitution. The Attorney General petitioned the Supreme Court for an opinion on whether the proposed amendment was valid. The Supreme approved the proposed amendment for placement on the ballot, determining (1) the proposed amendment meets the single-subject requirement; and (2) the ballot title and summary comply with section 101.161(1). View "Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General re Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying in part Marvin Cannon's initial postconviction motion filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and denied Cannon's petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that Cannon was not entitled to relief on his claims. Cannon was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes and sentenced to death. Cannon later filed his initial motion for postconviction relief, asserting that he was entitled to resentencing under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), that counsel was ineffective, and that the Department of Corrections' website reflected he was still serving a fifteen-year sentence for attempted robbery even though that conviction was vacated on direct appeal. The trial court agreed with Cannon's Hurst claim and vacated his death sentence but denied the remaining claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Cannon was not denied constitutionally effective assistance of counsel and that the postconviction court properly denied Cannon's second claim. In his habeas petition, Cannon alleged ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that appellate counsel was not ineffective for failing to raise a procedurally barred claim. View "Cannon v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the First District Court of Appeal vacating Defendant's sentence and remanding for resentencing under the prior version of Fla. Stat. 775.082(1), which could have resulted in reimposition of Defendant's sentence without any findings by a jury or the trial court, holding that the proper remedy for harmful error resulting from the court, not the jury finding the fact of dangerousness under section 775.082(1) is to remand for resentencing. In Brown v. State, 260 So. 3d 147, 150 (Fla. 2018), the Supreme Court held that the portion of section 775.082(10) requiring the court, not the jury, to find the fact of dangerousness to the public necessary to increase the statutory maximum nonstate prison sanction violated the Sixth Amendment. At issue in this case was the proper remedy for harmful error resulting from the court finding the fact of dangerousness under the statute. The First District held that statutory revival was the proper remedy. The Supreme Court quashed the First District's decision, holding that the proper remedy is to remand for resentencing with instructions to either impose a nonstate sanction of up to one year in county jail or empanel a jury to make the determination of dangerousness, if the State so requests. View "Gaymon v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court's judgment ordering a new penalty phase proceeding after finding Defendant was entitled to relief under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), and rejecting Defendant's guilt-phase claim, holding that this Court must partially recede from Hurst. The jury in Defendant's case recommended death by a vote of eleven to one after unanimously finding that, during the course of the first-degree murder, Defendant committed related crimes. Defendant later filed his postconviction motion alleging that counsel was ineffective for conceding that Defendant committed the nonhomicide offenses for which he was convicted and that Defendant was entitled to resentencing because the jury did not make the findings required by Hurst. The trial court denied Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim but vacated Defendant's death sentence pursuant to Hurst. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) this Court recedes from Hurst except to the extent it requires a jury unanimously to find the existence of a statutory aggravating circumstance; and (2) under a correct understanding of Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), the requirement that a jury unanimously find a statutory aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt was satisfied in this case. View "State v. Poole" on Justia Law

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In this advisory opinion, the Supreme Court answered a question asked by Governor Ron DeSantis regarding the interpretation of a portion of the Florida Constitution affecting his executive powers and duties by stating that it is in the Court's opinion that the phrase "all terms of sentence," as used in article VI, section 4, has an ordinary meaning that the voters would have understood to refer not only to durational periods but also to all legal financial obligations (LFOs) imposed in conjunction with an adjudication of guilt. Specifically, the Governor requested advice regarding the meaning of language added to Fla. Const. art. VI, 4 by the approval of an initiative petition, commonly referred to as Amendment 4, that restored the voting rights of certain convicted felons "upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation." The Supreme Court answered that the phrase "all terms of sentence" encompasses not just durational periods but also all LFOs - fines, restitution, costs, and fees - imposed in conjunction with an adjudication of guilt. View "Advisory Opinion to Governor re Implementation of Amendment 4, The Voting Restoration Amendment" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's third amended motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and denied Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This appeal concerned Appellant's second amended motion for postconviction relief. The postconviction court noted that Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase pursuant to Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) but denied the guilt-phase claims. The majority of the claims presented in Appellant's appeal alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Supreme Court denied the claims and affirmed the order of the postconviction court. The Court also denied Appellant's petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant's claim that comments made by the prosecutor tapped into racial stereotypes was procedurally barred and that Appellant's claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel also failed. View "Martin v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rendered this advisory opinion to address the issue of the validity of a citizen initiative petition circulated pursuant to Fla. Const. art. XI, 3, concluding that the proposed initiative should not be placed on the ballot. The initiative at issue was sponsored by Citizens for Energy Choices and titled "Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities; Allowing Energy Choice." In opposing the initiative, the Attorney General argued that the ballot title and summary failed adequately to inform the voters of "the true meaning and ramifications of the proposed amendment." Specifically at issue was whether the ballot summary affirmatively misled voters to believe that the initiative grants a right to sell electricity. The Supreme Court concluded that the ballot summary was affirmatively misleading and thus did not comply with Fla. Stat. 101.161(1). View "Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General re Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities; Allowing Energy Choice" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling that a peremptory strike was constitutionally impermissible because it was based on the prospective juror's religion, holding that the issue of the constitutionality of a religion-based strike was not properly preserved in the trial court and that the district court erred in reversing on the basis of an unpreserved argument. The district court concluded that the trial court erred in allowing the peremptory strike of the prospective juror at issue, basing its decision in part on its conclusion that the strike involved an unconstitutional religious test. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that Defendant's religion-based objection to the strike was not properly preserved. View "State v. Pacchiana" on Justia Law