[SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA]

Oral Argument Press Summaries
May 10-14 & 25, 1999

The following summaries are drawn from briefs and lower court judgments. They are meant to provide a general idea of facts and issues presented in cases, and should not be considered official court documents. Facts and issues presented in these summaries should be checked for accuracy against records and briefs, available from the Court, which provide more specific information.

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Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Monday, May 10, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
John D. Freeman v. Harry K. Singletary

Nos. 79,651 & 89,199

View briefs in Acrobat format -- Or download all briefs in one ZIP file by clicking the case number(s) here

9:00 Freeman was convicted and sentenced to death for the Nov. 11, 1986, murder of Leonard Collier after a jury recommended he be put to death 9-to-3. He now challenges the validity of his death sentence. Duval County
Ottis Lee Deen, Jr. v. Quantum Resources, Inc.

No. 93,652

View briefs in Acrobat format -- Or download all briefs in one ZIP file by clicking the case number(s) here 

Approx. 9:40 Deen was injured while working for an independent contractor performing repairs on Florida Power & Light's Manatee Electrical Generating facility. The injury apparently was caused by a defective scaffolding board. He sued FP&L and another independent contractor, Quantum, that had been hired to supervise various contractors working on the site. The trial court dismissed the suit, and the Second District affirmed. Hillsborough County
The Florida Bar v. Edward C. Vining, Jr.

No. 90,645

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Approx. 10:30 The Florida Bar filed disciplinary proceedings against Vining for allegedly failing to represent his clients as required by ethical rules and overbilling. The referee recommended disbarment in part because Vining currently is suspended from the practice of law for earlier misconduct and has another ethical proceeding pending against him. Dade County
Willie James Brown v. State of Florida

No. 93,942

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Approx. 11:00 Brown was stopped by police after they saw him bang on the window of a car stopped at a red light. He had his hands in his pockets, and an officer asked him to remove them. When Brown made a move the officer viewed as suspicious, the officer tried to grab his hands. A scuffle ensue. Brown was arrested and searched, and officers found marijuana and cocaine on him. The trial court found this evidence admissible, and Brown was convicted of possession. His conviction was affirmed by the Fourth District. St. Lucie County
State of Florida v. Frederick Van Hubbard

No. 94,116

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Approx. 11:40 On June 8, 1996, Dionisio Pura was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver on Highway 98 east of Gulf Breeze. The collision disabled his vehicle, leaving it in a traffic lane in poor visibility. Pura was standing near it when a car driven by Hubbard collided with Pura's truck at about 55 mph without braking. Pura was killed. Both drivers were charged with DUI manslaughter. In Hubbard's trial, the jury convicted him after being instructed that he could be found guilty if he contributed to the cause of death. The First District Court reversed on grounds the jury also should have been required to find that Hubbard's actual operation of the vehicle was negligent due to intoxication. Santa Rosa County

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Tuesday, May 11, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
David Goodwin v. State of Florida

Nos. 93,491 & 93,805

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9:00 In Broward County, Goodwin was tried and convicted for delivery of cocaine despite a possible error in the trial proceedings. In Duval County, Herbert Jones was tried and convicted of sexual battery despite a possible error in the proceedings. On appeal, the Fourth and First Districts certified questions to the Supreme Court about how to apply Florida's Criminal Appeal Reform Act to these errors. Broward County

Duval County

Statewide impact

David L. Maddox v. State of Florida

Nos. 92,805, 93,000, 93,207 & 93,966

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Approx. 9:40 These four consolidated cases also involve the constitutionality and application of the Criminal Appeal Reform Act to these errors. The cases involve the following: (1) St. Johns County, defendant Maddox convicted of burglary; (2) Sumter County, defendant Alfonzo Edwards convicted of delivery of cocaine; (3) Duval County, defendant Jason Tyrone Speights convicted of aggravated battery; and (4) Indian River County, defendant Terry Hyden convicted of cocaine possession. Duval, Indian River, St. Johns, & Sumter Counties

Statewide impact

Curtis Leon Heggs v. State of Florida

No. 93,851

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Approx 11:00. Heggs was tried and convicted for armed robbery and sentenced under the Criminal Appeal Reform Act. On appeal, the Second District determined that his sentence posed a constitutional question as to whether the Act was properly enacted by the Legislature according to procedures required by the state Constitution. It certified the case directly to the Supreme Court for immediate resolution. Polk County

Statewide impact

David Leonard v. State of Florida

No. 93,332

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Approx. 11:40 Leonard was tried and convicted for lewd acts on children and was sentenced in 1989. He was released on probation in 1993, and allegedly violated probation in 1995 and was ordered back to prison for a term of 30 years. He appealed, arguing that one of his 1989 sentences was illegal. On appeal, the Second District Court held that this claim was barred because he failed to properly object as required by the Criminal Appeal Reform Act.  Hillsborough County

Statewide impact

State of Florida v. James Anthony Jefferson

No. 94,630

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Approx. Noon Jefferson was tried and convicted of sexual battery and kidnaping. In calculating his sentence, the judge made an error that resulted in a longer prison term than otherwise would have been the case. Jefferson's attorney failed to notice or object in the manner required by the Criminal Appeal Reform Act. When Jefferson appealed, the State moved to dismiss the case on this ground. The Third District Court denied the request but certified the question to this Court. Dade County

Statewide impact

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Wednesday, May 12, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
Advisory Opinion to the Governor: Terms of County Court Judges

No. 94,791

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9:00 In November 1998 Florida voters amended the Constitution to provide that county court judges will have the same term of service as all other Florida judges-6 years. The amendment, however, specified no effective date as to this specific change. Governor Jeb Bush asked for an advisory opinion to determine when the change takes effect. Statewide impact
George Porter, Jr. v. State of Florida

No. 88,562

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Approx. 9:40 Porter was convicted and sentenced to death for the October 1986 murders of his former girlfriend Evelyn Williams and her boyfriend Wallace Burrows. He now challenges the validity of his sentence. Brevard County
Inquiry Concerning a Judge: Richard H. Frank

No. 92,630

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Approx. 10:30 Retired Second District Court of Appeal Judge Richard Frank is accused of alleged unethical conduct while serving as an appellate judge.  The accusations against Judge Frank arose from circumstances in the divorces of two of his daughters.  Judge Frank allegedly made false and misleading statements while testifying before a Florida Bar grievance committee that was investigating the alleged misconduct of one of Judge Frank's sons-in-law.  Judge Frank also allegedly acted unethically by failing to disclose that one of his daughters was being represented by an attorney who appeared before Second District panels on which Judge Frank sat.  Finally, Judge Frank allegedly used his judicial position in an improper way during the Bar grievance proceeding against his son-in-law, as well as following that proceeding.  The Judicial Qualifications Commission asks the Supreme Court to reprimand Judge Frank for his alleged misconduct. Hillsborough County

 

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Thursday, May 13, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
NO CASES SCHEDULED

 

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Friday, May 14, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
NO CASES SCHEDULED

 

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Tuesday, May 25, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstancess

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
Ceremonial Session: In re 50th Anniversary of Virgil Hawkins' Lawsuit Desegregating the University of Florida College of Law 2:30 On May 25, 1949, Virgil Hawkins and other African-Americans filed suit in the Supreme Court of Florida asking it to order an end to the University of Florida's policy of denying admission to persons of color. Though Hawkins' himself never gained admission, his lawsuit eventually resulted in the Court-ordered end of this segregationist policy. In cooperation with the Florida Branches of the NAACP and other organizations, the Court has ordered this Ceremonial Session to commemorate this important anniversary.

In April 1949 Virgil Hawkins and five other African-American Floridians applied for admission to the University of Florida.  All were refused based on their color.  The lawsuit Hawkins would pursue for nine years was one of the first legal challenges leading up to the U.S. Supreme Court's historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education that overruled the "separate but equal" doctrine applied under Jim Crow laws in the South.

Hawkins sought admission to the law school.  Since there was no other public law school at the time, the State of Florida was not even in compliance with the "separate but equal doctrine."  Florida's response was typical of its day: The state Board of Control that supervised the university system created a law program at Florida A&M University on Dec. 21, 1949.  In 1950, the Florida Supreme Court upheld this scheme under the "separate but equal" doctrine.

Hawkins still pursued his suit.  In 1954 when Brown was issued, the U.S. Supreme Court also ordered its Florida counterpart to reconsider its decision in the Hawkins case.  It did so in 1955.  But the Court appointed a "commissioner" to consider, among other things, whether Hawkins' admission to the College of Law would "work a serious public mischief."  The commission held public hearings in Gainesville on the subject, which Hawkins refused to attend.

Hawkins again turned to the U.S. Supreme Court.  In 1957, it ordered Florida to immediately enroll Virgil Hawkins in the College.  The Florida Supreme Court again took up the issue that same year and, like many Southern states at the time, concluded that federal law could be superseded by state law in some instances, including this one.  This is a now-discredited legal doctrine known at the time as "interposition."

Noting that Hawkins did not attend the commissioner's hearings, the Court proceeded to conclude that Hawkins' admission to the College would produce a reaction by whites that would disrupt the University.  The majority opinion then concluded: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."  In a stinging dissent, Justice Drew countered: "[J]ustice delayed is justice denied."  Hawkins again turned to the United States Supreme Court.  Surprisingly, it did nothing.

Hawkins later graduated from an unaccredited law school in Boston.  Because Florida attorneys must graduate from accredited schools, he was denied admission to The Florida Bar until the Florida Supreme Court granted him a special waiver in 1976.  In 1977 at age 69, he finally achieved his dream of practicing law in Florida.  His advanced years and the lapse of time since his education were impediments, however, that led to errors in his professional judgment.  He was brought up on ethical charges.  Unable to afford a lawyer, he once told the Court himself: "When I get to heaven, I want to be a member of The Florida Bar."  Facing discipline, Hawkins resigned from the Bar in 1985 and died Feb. 11, 1988.

Later in 1988 attorney Harley Scott Herman continued Hawkins' crusade.  In October that same year, the Florida Supreme Court acted on Herman's request and reinstated Hawkins' Bar membership posthumously.  At the same time the Court repudiated its own earlier opinions denying Hawkins the relief he sought for so many years and recognized him as a hero of Florida's civil rights movement.  Hawkins' life story is the subject of a recent national television documentary.
 

Note: This event will be broadcast in live audio and video over the Internet (http://wfsu.org/gavel2gavel/) and Tallahassee cable channel 47. It will be rebroadcast tape-delayed via the state satellite starting at 10 a.m., Wednesday, May 26, 1999.


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