Justice Lewis on 3d DCA Opinion: Litigants Beware!

We previously covered this case here, but the FSC has suddenly reversed itself and decided not to take on the issue of extensions of statutes of limitations based on administrative bad weather orders.

Here’s the per curiam opinion:

We initially accepted jurisdiction to review the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal in Ramirez v. McCravy, 4 So. 3d 692 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009), based on express and direct conflict with Hankey v. Yarian, 755 So. 2d 93 (Fla. 2000), and Sullivan v. State, 913 So. 2d 762 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005). After further consideration, we conclude that jurisdiction was improvidently granted. Accordingly, we hereby discharge jurisdiction and dismiss this review proceeding.

Seems simple, right?Not according to Justice Lewis, who filed this mild dissent:

The decision below and the principle of law specifically announced as the basis for the conclusion is in express and direct conflict with every Florida decision that has previously upheld any extension of a statutory time period based upon procedural rules or considerations, such as rules which extend any statutory time deadline due to the status of governmental facilities being closed for weekends, holidays, disasters and otherwise, along with the myriad of other practical circumstances and situations that the judicial branch has addressed for as long as the judicial system has existed. There is also misapplication of law conflict with Hearndon v. Graham, 767 So. 2d 1179 (Fla. 2000), and express and direct conflict with every other decision in Florida that has ever explained the concept of “tolling,” all of which are contrary to the decision below.

Other than that, the opinion’s just fine!Justice Lewis concludes with a bit of rhetorical flourish:

Litigants beware! The principles of law announced in the decision below have far reaching consequences. The principle of law announced by the court below may or may not be correct but it must be resolved to avoid the destabilizing effect of its application. Accordingly, I dissent because the destabilizing effect of the principles announced should be addressed.

Sheesh!Let’s try to figure out exactly what Justice Lewis is so upset about.Mostly he’s upset because the 3d DCA unequivocally stated the reason for the ruling is that the Florida Supreme Court lacks the Constitutional authority to alter statutory time periods.Justice Pariente, in her concurrence, talks a lot about what Justice Lewis calls an “unstated subjective intent” — that the extensions shouldn’t be available to a litigant who does not allege that the bad weather impacted his or her ability to otherwise file within the statutory period.Here is Justice Pariente:

The purpose of the administrative orders would not be served if a litigant could tack on days to a statute of limitations where the last weather emergency occurred six months before the expiration and the litigant does not allege that the delay in filing was based on any of the weather emergencies.

Justice Lewis says this is an after-the-fact justification contrary to the actual stated basis for the 3d DCA’s ruling:

Justice Pariente goes to great effort to assert an unstated subjective intent in administrative orders contrary to the specifically stated principle of law articulated very clearly by the Third District as the reason and basis for its conclusion. Justice Pariente articulates an intent never voiced by the court below. When a court announces its decision and specifically states “We reach this conclusion because” followed by a clearly articulated principle of law, I read the words of the opinion rather than suggesting an unstated subjective intent.

This is funny, because I also questioned this aspect of the 3d DCA’s ruling, and also wondered why a litigant would need to allege specific reliance on the extra emergency days.

But what do I know?