The First District Court of Appeal (DCA) has overruled Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson’s recent decision that allowed the City of Tallahassee to address the residency controversy involving City Commissioner Scott Maddox.
The City of Tallahassee, through their legal representation, previously persuaded Judge Dodson that the city’s charter gave them sole discretion over the issue.
Dr. Erwin Jackson, who first filed an action over questions about Maddox’s residency with the Circuit Court, filed an appeal with the DCA challenging Dodson’s decision. In the appeal, Dr. Jackson, through his attorney, argued state law required a hearing in Circuit Court, not with the City Commission.
On Wednesday, after the three judge panel heard about 40 minutes of oral arguments, the DCA issued a ruling that said “the lower tribunal was obligated to hold the ‘immediate hearing’ required by section 102.168(7), and lacked discretion to stay the case in deference to a hearing before the City Commission.”
The order concluded with “we therefore grant the petition for writ of mandamus, quash the order under review, and direct the lower tribunal to hold an immediate hearing on Jackson’s timely complaint.” The complete ruling is provide below.
BY ORDER OF THE COURT:
We find that section 102.168, Florida Statutes (2016), is controlling and that the proper forum for Jackson’s post-election contest is the circuit court. Therefore, the lower tribunal was obligated to hold the “immediate hearing” required by section 102.168(7), and lacked discretion to stay the case in deference to a hearing before the City Commission. Rather,in considering Jackson’s challenge to Maddox’s eligibility to hold office, the lower tribunal was required to consider, without limitation, whether Maddox is eligible for the office of City Commissioner under Section 9 of the City’s Charter (creating a city commission to consist of five “electors of the city elected at large”) (emphasis added). We therefore grant the petition for writ of mandamus, quash the order under review, and direct the lower tribunal to hold an immediate hearing on Jackson’s timely complaint. An opinion further explaining the Court’s reasoning will issue at a later date; however, the lower tribunal should proceed with the immediate hearing forthwith.
ROWE, MAKAR, and KELSEY, JJ., CONCUR.