TALLAHASSEE – An appeals court on Friday questioned whether the case was filed “frivolously” or “badly” and dismissed Santa Rosa Beach attorney Daniel Uhlfelder’s lawsuit aimed at coercing Governor Ron DeSantis to close beaches nationwide to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
More:PHOTOS: ‘Grim Reaper’ walks Walton County’s beaches to protest the reopening
Uhlfelder, who drew the attention of the national media during the pandemic for public appearances as the Grim Reaper, brought the case of the beach closure to the 1st district appeal court after a judge from the Leon district ruled against him.
In a sharply worded unilateral decision on Friday, a committee consisting of three judges rejected the case, saying that the appellate court had “examined the pleadings and other documents in this case and found that the complainant (Uhlfelder) cannot even prove a contentious right Basis for the reversal. “
More:Uhlfelder creates PAC to challenge “bad actors”
In addition, the complainant must explain within fifteen days why this court should not impose any sanctions on him and the attorney for filing this complaint, the first pleading and the request for a hearing, including attorney’s fees and costs, which appear reckless and / or in Filed in bad faith, ”reads the order from Justices Brad Thomas, Susan Kelsey and Adam Tanenbaum.
Uhlfelder filed the lawsuit against DeSantis in late March, arguing that the governor should be required to shut down beaches nationwide and issue a strict order that will prevent the virus from spreading.
He admitted Friday’s order was “unusual” and said he would respond to the appeals court within the allotted time frame.
“I don’t think it’s frivolous or malicious,” he told Florida Intelligence in a phone interview Friday night.
Uhlfelder said he filed the lawsuit “because the governor has suspended his constitutional authority and he has endangered life.” And since the appeal, the COVID-19 situation in Florida has “gotten worse,” he said.
More:Attorney Daniel Uhlfelder no longer represents Florida Beaches for All
In ruling against Uhlfelder in April, Leon County Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll said the state constitution gives the governor discretion in handling emergencies.
“I believe I am being asked to replace the governor’s judgment on how to respond to this COVID crisis that has been a moving target,” Carroll said during a phone hearing at the time. “Florida has 599 judges last, and I don’t think we need 599 governors waiting for us.”
Carroll also said DeSantis’ actions regarding beach closings and the stay-at-home order would violate restrictions on the separation of powers set out in the constitution.
However, during the April hearing, Judge thanked Uhlfelder for filing the lawsuit and encouraged him to appeal “because I think this is an important matter”.
“If the 1st District (Court of Appeal) tells me that I am wrong and that I have the authority, I am glad to go into that and move on from there. But I don’t think I have the power to do what you ask me to do, and I’m sorry to tell you the answer is no, ”said the judge.
In a July letter to the Tallahassee appeals court, Uhlfelder denied that the separation of powers should lead to the case being dismissed.
“Indeed, the separation of powers requires judicial intervention to protect the health and well-being of the Florida citizens from DeSantis’ constitutional waiver of his sworn duties,” wrote von Uhlfelder’s lawyers in the letter. “Sustaining the lives of Floridians depends on the justice system protecting them because it is clear DeSantis has no interest in protecting their lives during this deadly global pandemic where Florida is now fast becoming the epicenter.”
However, DeSantis lawyers asked the court to back Carroll’s decision.
“Since Florida’s government structure recognizes and defines a clear separation of powers between three branches of government and the claims of the authorities calling on the governor to act are purely discretionary, the question raised by the appellant is beyond the discretion of the courts.” DeSantis lawyers wrote briefly. “Simply put, the judiciary is not the proper branch to meet complainants’ demands for a change in public order. It is either the legislature (to change the law) or the executive (to carry it out in a certain way ). “
But Uhlfelder noted Friday that Carroll had called on him to appeal, saying “reputable” lawyers had joined the lawsuit.
“I’ve worked as a lawyer for a long time and have been with lawyers for a long time. I do not submit frivolous acts. I believe in what I did. I think what I did helped people. The judge told me to appeal. I did it, ”he said.