Left to right: Florida Solicitor General Amit Agarwal and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. Photo: J. Albert Diaz/ALM

Florida’s foremost prosecutors are clashing in the state’s supreme court over the constitutionality of a 2017 amendment to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

On Wednesday, Florida Solicitor General Amit Agarwal filed a response to the Florida Supreme Court in opposition of an Oct. 26 amicus brief submitted by Katherine Fernandez Rundle in Tashara Love v. State of Florida. In her brief, Fernandez Rundle — who has served as the Miami-Dade State Attorney since being elected in 1993 — adopted the position of an earlier motion filed by the South Florida-based League of Prosecutors.

Both Fernandez Rundle and the organization called the newest iteration of the “stand your ground” law unconstitutional. Both parties take issue with the 2017 amendment placing the burden upon prosecutors to assert with “clear and convincing evidence” that a defendant’s use of force was not justified or afforded protection under the “stand your ground” law.

Read Fernandez Rundle’s brief: 

“It is important for this court to recognize that [the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office] has not changed its basic position that the statute is unconstitutional,” the brief said, referencing its answer to the question “raised in various trial courts in Miami-Dade County.”

Fernandez Rundle’s motion held the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office “supports the position of the League of Prosecutors and desires to adopt its brief as its own in an amicus capacity.”

Responding on behalf of Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, Agarwal’s motion referred to the brief filed by Miami’s chief prosecutor as “highly unusual” and “apparently unprecedented.”

Read Agarwal’s response: 

“The League’s brief is already available to the court, as are other briefs discussing the constitutional separation-of-powers issue,” he wrote. “Rather, granting the State Attorney’s motion to adopt a position that has already been discussed by other amici would serve no purpose other than to circumvent Florida law, which grants the Attorney General, not the State Attorney, the authority to speak for the state in its appellate courts.”

While the response recommends that the Florida Supreme Court grant the League of Prosecutors’ motion to file an amicus brief, it asks the high court to “deny the State Attorney’s separate motion to ‘adopt’ the League’s position in the State Attorney’s capacity as an amicus.”

Neither the League of Prosecutors nor the office of the Florida Attorney General responded to requests for comment by press time.

In a statement to the Daily Business Review, Fernandez Rundle said she disagrees with the arguments presented in Agarwal’s filing.

“There is precedent in Smith v. State that speaks to the court’s benefiting from full briefing when the constitutionality of a statute is in question, regardless of the positions of the agencies representing the parties before the court,” she said, reiterating her view “that the Florida Supreme Court should exercise its discretion and decide this issue.”

“I want to make sure that the court knows that I was the entity representing the State of Florida in the trial court, and I believe in and stand by my position in the trial court on this issue of great public importance,” she said.

The Florida Supreme Court’s decision is also poised to determine whether the 2017 change concerning the burden of proof in “stand your ground” cases could be applied retroactively. The Third District Court of Appeal ruled in May that this could not be applied retroactively in plaintiff Tashara Love’s underlying case. Love had previously sought to utilize the “stand your ground” defense while being prosecuted for a November 2015 shooting outside a Miami-Dade strip club.


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Florida Supreme Court to Take Up ‘Stand Your Ground’ Split

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