HomeLocal governmentGainesville Residents United files federal lawsuit against Florida officials for HB 1645
Gainesville Residents United files federal lawsuit against Florida officials for HB 1645
July 3, 2023
Press release from Gainesville Residents United
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Ron DeSantis signed Florida House Bill 1645 on June 28, mandating that Governor’s appointees will take charge of the utility services of the City of Gainesville, Florida. The “special law” took effect on July 1. The State is advertising for applicants that the Governor will appoint to a new five-person Utility Authority. This board will manage all aspects of the City of Gainesville’s utility department beginning October 4, 2023.
Gainesville Residents United, Inc. filed a lawsuit today in the United States District Court’s Northern Division (in Gainesville) requesting that the special law be blocked and declared unconstitutional. The lawsuit is titled: “Gainesville Residents United, et al v. Governor Ron DeSantis, et al.”
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the nonprofit corporation “Gainesville Residents United, Inc.” and individual persons including Susan Bottcher, Evelyn Foxx, Robert Hutchinson, Joe Little, Michael Varvel, and Wes Wheeler. The mission of Gainesville Residents United is “to educate, advocate, negotiate, and litigate issues of importance to our community.”
Defendants in the lawsuit are Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida; Ashley Moody, Attorney General of Florida; and Cord Byrd, Florida Secretary of State. The City of Gainesville is also named as a “nominal defendant”. A nominal defendant is included in a lawsuit when they are a party affected by the legal issue, but not necessarily the cause of the dispute. The City of Gainesville is also being included because the new Gainesville Regional Utility Authority has been designated by state law as a “unit” of the City of Gainesville, and therefore is not a separate legal entity capable of being sued.
The lawsuit filed in Federal Court lists twelve separate counts in which the Special Law infringes on constitutional rights, or its passage didn’t adhere to due process, or it violates Florida statutes.
Summary of complaints in “Gainesville Residents United, et al v. Governor Ron DeSantis, et al
Special Law infringes upon Plaintiff’s ability to “petition for redress of grievances.”
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (“petition” clause)
Special Law infringes on the Plaintiff’s right to free speech through “content-based and viewpoint-based discrimination.”
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (“freedom of speech” clause, and subsequent interpretations)
Special Law infringes on the Plaintiff’s right to free speech through “prior restraint of speech without procedural and substantive protections”.
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (“freedom of speech” clause and subsequent interpretations)
Special Law’s prohibition for any considerations “in furtherance of social, political, or ideological interests” is unconstitutionally vague
First amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and due process arguments
Special Law is invalid because it violates the constitutional restrictions on the duties of the Governor as an officer of the State.
Florida Constitution – Article III, §11 (A)
Special Law’s passage failed to comply with Notice requirements in the Florida Constitution and Statutes
Florida Constitution – Article III, §10 &Florida Statutes – §11.02
Special Law, during its legislative consideration, failed to comply with Affidavit Requirements
Florida Statutes – §11.03
Special Law violates statutes by authorizing an un-elected, non-legislative authority to make legislative decisions for a municipality
Florida Statutes – Chapter 180
Special Law violates Florida Constitution by failing to provide for a referendum
Florida Constitution – Article III, §10
Special Law violates Florida Statutes by affecting municipal employees and “extra-territorial interests”, which require a referendum
Florida Statutes – §166.021 (4)
Special Law denies the constitutional right for citizens to vote for municipal legislative offices
Florida Constitution – Article VIII, §2 (b)
Special Law impairs the contract with municipal bondholders
Florida Constitution – Article I, § 10,
Attorneys for the plaintiffs are: — Terrell Arline of Tallahassee, an expert in local government and Florida laws — Gary Edinger of Gainesville, an expert in First Amendment and federal appellate law. — Joe Little, UF Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law
It is anticipated that the Florida Attorney General will be responding for state agency defendants. Gainesville City Attorney Dan Nee will manage the City’s involvement; the City has also engaged Cindy Laquidara of Jacksonville as special counsel for City litigation involving the Utility Authority.