Gov. Rick Scott
Gov. Rick Scott (David Albers/AP)

Four South Florida law firms are challenging Gov. Rick Scott in the state’s highest court over his decision to hold back $37 million from homeowners whose citrus trees were removed a decade ago.

Earlier this month, Scott vetoed a legislative appropriation to homeowners in Broward and Lee counties whose healthy trees were destroyed by the government in an effort to eradicate citrus canker. The budget items were based on final judgments issued by state courts.

The veto “undermines the state’s constitutional obligation to pay full compensation for the taking of private property,” Class counsel Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen, Robert C. Gilbert P.A., Lytal Reiter Smith Ivey & Fronrath and Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman argue in a petition filed Wednesday in the Florida Supreme Court. (Robert Gilbert is now with Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert.)

The firms initially planned to ask for writs of mandamus at the circuit court level to require the agriculture department to pay the $37 million, but they’re now asking the high court to take the case before the state budget goes into effect July 1.

“There is no time for this case to work its way through the circuit court, to the district court, and ultimately back to this court for final resolution,” the firms wrote.

Scott said he vetoed the appropriations due to ongoing litigation. The citrus canker litigation is complete in Broward, Lee, Orange and Palm Beach counties, but a Miami-Dade case is still pending.