[SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA]

Oral Argument Press Summaries
August 24, August 30-September 3, & September 8, 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
Tuesday, August 24, 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
Thomas Harrison Provenzano v. State of Florida

Briefs note available
 
 

9:00 On June 9 Governor Bush signed a death warrant for the July 7 execution of Provenzano. In response, Provenzano's attorneys argued that their client was incompetent to be executed due to mental illness. A hearing was held on the issue, and the trial judge rejected the claim. Provenzano appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. Before the appeal could be heard, the State executed Allen Lee Davis. Provenzano's attorneys alleged that the Davis execution was the latest of several botched executions, in part because the electrical current allegedly deviated from a protocol the State agreed to use, which the Florida Supreme Court had ordered the Department of Corrections to follow. They also contend that photographs of Davis taken immediately after his execution and other evidence show he suffered pain sufficient to render the electric chair a "cruel and/or unusual punishment" under the Constitution. The State argued that the electric chair functions properly, causing instantaneous unconsciousness and thus no conscious pain. A separate hearing was held on these claims, and the trial judge found in favor of the State. Provenzano also appealed this order. The Supreme Court stayed Provenzano's execution until 7:00 a.m. Sept. 14 and consolidated both appeals for arguments Aug. 24. Orange County

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Monday, August 30, 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
State of Florida v. Robert Reardon

Nos. 94,291, 94,300, & 94,301

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9:00 These consolidated cases involved alleged conflicts of interest arising when the Palm Beach public defender's office represented criminal defendants. Conflicts allegedly arose because the public defender previously had represented witnesses testifying against their present clients. In each case the trial judge found no conflict sufficient to disqualify the public defender from serving as counsel. The Fourth District reversed each time. Palm Beach County
City of Homestead v. Julia L. Johnson

No. 92,820

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Approx. 9:40 After Hurricane Andrew, the City of Homestead built an industrial park on leased land called the Park of Commerce, whose electric utility service is provided by city-owned facilities. Florida Power & Light filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission contending that it alone was entitled to supply electrical service to the Park under a 1967 agreement with the City. The PSC ruled in favor of Florida Power & Light, and the City appeals.  Homestead

Dade County

Patricia Ann Hankey v. Susan Yarian, M.D.

No. 94,384

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Approx. 10:30 In December 1994, Hankey allegedly was the victim of medical malpractice committed by Yarian, Women's Health Care of St. Augustine, Flagler Hospital, and others. The trial court dismissed on grounds the statute of limitations had expired. The Fifth District Court of Appeal agreed, but certified that conflict existed among the various district courts on how exactly to calculate the statute of limitations. The Court accepted the case to resolve the conflict. St. Johns County

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Tuesday, August 31, 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
Fred Lewis Way v. State of Florida

No. 78,640

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9:00 Way was convicted and sentenced to death for the July 1983 murders of his wife and daughter, whose bodies were recovered from the burned garage of their home. Both victims had blunt trauma wounds and burns over 100 percent of their bodies. Way now challenges his sentence based on new evidence allegedly showing that the fire was accidentally ignited in an explosion that also caused the victims' blunt trauma injuries. The State contends this theory is inconsistent with the known facts and evidence of the deaths. Hillsborough County
Pauline Zile v. State of Florida

No. 93,289

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Approx. 10:00 Zile and her husband were charged with aggravated child abuse and murder in connection with the death of her 7-year-old daughter Christina Holt. She was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. She challenged her conviction on grounds that statements she gave to police were improperly used against her in court. The Fourth District Court rejected this argument, and she appeals. Palm Beach County
Lynford R. Blackwood v. State of Florida

No. 90,859

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Approx. 10:40 Blackwood was arrested in the murder of Carolyn Thomas-Tynes, who was found strangled in her bed on Jan. 6, 1995. The two had had a long-term relationship. At trial, he was convicted and the jury recommended the death penalty 9-to-3. After the trial judge sentenced Blackwood to death, he appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. Broward County
Guy Hammond v. State of Florida

No. 94,780

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Approx. 11:40 Hammond was charged with sexually abusing two children between Oct. 1995 and Oct. 1996. At trial, his attorney objected to the selection of a juror who was a secretary working for the Child Protection Center. The panel seated by the court included the secretary, and the jury found Hammond guilty. On appeal, Hammond argued that it was improper to place the secretary on the jury, but the Second District Court held that Hammond's attorney had not objected to the juror properly. Sarasota County

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Wednesday, September 1, 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
Albert Holland v. State of Florida

No. 89,922

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9:00 Holland was charged with the attempted sexual battery and attempted murder of Thelma Johnson and the murder of Officer Scott Winters in Pompano Beach in July 1990. Winters was murdered while investigating the offenses against Johnson. Holland was convicted and sentenced to death, but the case was reversed in 1994 for failure to follow a U.S. Supreme Court decision. At retrial, Holland again was convicted and sentenced to death on a jury recommendation favoring his execution 8-to-4. He appeals. Broward County
Jane Doe v. America Online, Inc.

No. 94,355

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Approx. 10:00 In 1994 Richard Russell filmed Jane Doe's 11-year-old son and two other boys performing sexual acts. Russell then tried selling copies of the photographs to others by advertising in "chat rooms" on AOL. This was contrary to AOL's rules for chat room use. Jane Doe sued AOL under Florida laws prohibiting child exploitation. She alleged that AOL knew its chat rooms were being used to distribute child pornography but did little to stop the practice. The trial judge dismissed the suit on grounds that AOL and other chat room providers were granted immunity from suits like this under the federal Communications Decency Act, effectively preempting Florida's child exploitation laws in this instance. On the appeal, the Fourth District affirmed, and Doe appeals. Palm Beach County
Theresa Sieniarecki v. State of Florida

No. 94,800

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Approx. 10:40 Theresa Sieniarecki was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a disabled person, her 50-year-old mother Patricia Sieniarecki. Patricia's body was found in October 1996 in a Dania apartment where she and Theresa lived in impoverished conditions, without electricity. A medical examiner found that Patricia died of infections caused by dehydration, malnutrition, and lack of hygiene. Her 5'3" body weighed 68 pounds. There was testimony that Patricia refused to see a doctor about longstanding health problems, would eat little, and was unconcerned about her hygiene. At trial Theresa was found guilty of the lesser included offense of neglect of a disabled person. The Fourth District Court rejected Theresa's claim that the statute under which she was sentenced is unconstitutional and unlawfully required her to seek treatment for her mother against her mother's wishes. She appeals. Broward County

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Thursday, September 2, 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
Florida Dept. of Revenue v. C. Raymond McIntyre

Nos. 94,105 & 94,118

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9:00 From the 1970s to 1991, the Sebring Airport Authority operated the annual "Twelve Hours of Sebring" race on property it still owns. In 1991, the Authority entered into a lease agreement with a for-profit corporation, the Sebring International Raceway, to run the race. The Raceway sought and was denied a property tax exemption on its leasehold. The denial was affirmed by the Florida Supreme Court in 1994. The legislature then passed a new law authorizing a property tax exemption for leaseholds of this type. But the Raceway again was denied an exemption. The trial judge and Second District Court held the exemption unconstitutional. The Raceway appeals Sebring

Highlands County

Debra Anne Turner v. PCR, Inc.

No. 94,468

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Approx. 9:40 On Nov. 22, 1991, a chemical explosion at a plant owned by PCR, Inc., injured James Creighton and killed Paul Turner. Experts said the explosion occurred as PCR tried to develop a replacement for Freon using an explosive chemical without adequate precautions and despite warnings of the likelihood of an explosion. The trial judge and First District concluded the only remedy was worker's compensation, and ordered dismissal of suits filed against PCR. Alachua County
Rev. Dr. James Armstrong v. Katherine Harris

No. 95,223

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Approx. 10:30 Armstrong and others filed suit arguing that Amendment 2, which 72.8 % of voters approved in November 1998, is illegal and must be nullified because of alleged defects in its ballot summary and title. The Amendment was titled "Preservation of the Death Penalty." The trial judge ruled in favor of the State, and the First District certified the case to the Supreme Court.  Leon County
Service Employees Int'l Union, Local 16, AFL-CIO, v. Public Employee Relations Commission

No. 94,427

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Approx. 11:10 The Union filed a complaint against the Orange County clerk of court for allegedly firing a deputy court clerk for engaging in union activities protected by law if the participant is a "public employee." The complaint was dismissed on grounds that deputy clerks, like deputy sheriffs, are not "public employees" and thus are not protected. The Fifth District affirmed, but certified the case to the Supreme Court. Orange County
Roy Clifton Swafford v. State of Florida

No. 92,173

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Approx. 11:50 Swafford was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the Feb. 14, 1982, murder of Brenda Rucker, a gas station attendant in Ormond Beach. His sentence was affirmed. Swafford now challenges his sentence based on evidence he believes implicates someone else in the murder.  Ormond Beach

Volusia County

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Friday, September 3, 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
Selma Gross v. Rebecca Lynn Lyons

No. 94,201

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8:30 A car driven by Gross rear-ended a vehicle operated by Lyons. She complained of neck pain, was taken to an emergency room, and received some treatment. Three months later Lyons was in another car accident. Doctors later found she had a preexisting spinal defect. She later underwent medical procedures on her back, and sued Gross to recover damages. The jury awarded her nothing. On appeal the Fourth District ordered a new trial. Palm Beach County
U.S. Security Insurance Co. v. Jeanni M. Cimino

No. 93,932

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Approx. 9:10 Cimino was involved in a traffic accident and sought benefits for treatment from U.S. Security, which then required her to undergo an independent medical exam. Cimino showed up with her attorney, but the physician refused to perform the exam with a lawyer present. A trial judge ruled Cimino had no right to have her lawyer present, but the First District reversed. Leon County
Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Pinnacle Medical, Inc.

Nos. 94,494 & 94,539

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Approx. 9:50 Under Florida's no-fault auto insurance laws, persons covered by personal injury insurance are entitled to have their medical providers paid "reasonable" amounts for treatment. If a dispute arises, the insurer and the medical provider must take the case to binding arbitration in some cases, with the prevailing party entitled to attorney's fees and costs. The Fifth District Court ruled that the arbitration statute was unconstitutional, and the insurer appeals.  Orange County
Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. v. Earl Barnes

No. 94,544

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Approx. 10:30 Barnes alleges he contracted the lung disease silicosis after working in 1972-74 as a sandblaster with Odom Tank Co. In 1984 one of his lungs was removed, though it was not determined that his illness was due to silicosis until 1995. He filed suit, alleging that the defendant's supplied sand-blasting products that caused his disease. Defendants asked the judge to dismiss the case on grounds that Barnes had exceeded the 12-year maximum period in which to file suit. The trial judge agreed, but the First District reversed. Escambia County

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Wednesday, September 8, 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
The Florida Senate v. Katherine Harris

No. 95,960

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

9:00 In the 1999 Legislature's general appropriations act, it set aside about $40 million to let up to 234 Florida schools extend their school year from a minimum 180 days to a minimum 210 days in fiscal year 1999-2000. Governor Bush exercised his line-item veto to eliminate some of the language in this appropriation. The Florida Senate contends his veto reduced the appropriation to $23.3 million in violation of constitutional principles requiring the Governor to either veto all or none of any "unified fund" in an appropriations act. The Governor argues that the sum he vetoed itself was a unified fund because the amount is identifiable in the Legislature's working papers. Thus, he believes he is constitutionally allowed to veto it. Statewide impact


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