Friday, August 10, 2012

Judge: Duval clerk ineligible due to term limits

In May, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that county commission term limits are constitutional and also receded from its 2002 decision in Cook that term limits on constitutional officers are unconstitutional. The message from the court that day couldn’t be clearer: county term limits in Florida are constitutional.

Nonetheless, Duval County Clerk of Courts Jim Fuller didn’t get it. Fuller continued to campaign for his fourth term in office in violation of Duval County term limits law.

Naturally he was sued. And today Judge William Wilkes ruled that Fuller is not above the law. He is ineligible and must drop out of the race.

As a constitutional officer, Fuller’s term limit had been nullified by the Supreme Court’s Cook case in 2002 but this year’s Telli case "reactivated" it, Judge Wilkes ruled. Fuller said he would not appeal the decision.

"I think the court fully and properly applied the decision in the Telli case,” Duval County attorney Michael Wedner told the Florida Times-Union.

Today’s ruling turns the spotlight on Pinellas County, where four county commissioners continue to defy voter-approved county commission term limits.

Voters approved the 8-year limits on the county commission and constitutional officers in 1996 by 72 percent of the vote. As in Duval, the Cook decision temporarily nullified the term limits on constitutional officers.

Pinellas County Commissioners have long and erroneously argued that the Cook decision did apply to county commissioner term limits as well. The commission never tested this novel interpretation in court. But now that the Supreme Court has receded from Cook, that argument is kaput. Their new claim per Pinellas County Attorney Jim Bennett is that May's Supreme Court decision in Telli does not apply to Pinellas because the court's ruling only applies "prospectively" not "retroactively."

Today's ruling in Jacksonville explicitly tosses that flimsy argument out the window:

Judge Wilkes: "The Florida's Supreme Court decision in Telli has in effect revived a dormant section [of the charter]. No legislative action must be taken for [the] section ... to take effect."


Three citizens have launched the Save Pinellas lawsuit in Pinellas County to compel the commission and supervisor of elections to comply with the voter-approved law. Get involved!

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