Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis.
Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis. (Photo: Phil Sears)

A Florida Supreme Court justice used the final opinion release of the summer Thursday to pointedly remind Gov. Rick Scott that his title is governor, not king.

The court declined to review Scott’s veto of a budget item that would have paid $37 million in court judgments won by homeowners in Broward and Lee counties. They lost healthy citrus trees in an unsuccessful attempt by the state to eradicate citrus canker. The plaintiffs still have time to seek relief in trial courts, six justices said.

But in a blistering dissent, Justice R. Fred Lewis said the majority’s decision allowed Scott to “rise above not only the Florida Constitution but also the United States Constitution.”

In vetoing the budget item after a 15-year legal battle, Scott “toyed with” the citrus canker plaintiffs “as if a yo-yo,” the justice continued.

“We have begun down the road to an unfettered monarchy if we take away the right of payment of compensation for the government taking of property and render it illusory through incessant legal trifles,” he wrote.

Justice Barbara Pariente, though in the majority, only “reluctantly” concurred because the homeowners did not raise the issue of the constitutionality of a state law requiring them to seek a legislative appropriation.

“These petitioners have the right to full compensation,” she wrote, with Justice Peggy Quince concurring. “The time has come for the state to pay up.”