Judge Refuses To Leave Conservation Funding Case

Jul 19, 2018

A Leon County circuit judge this week refused a request by legislative leaders for his disqualification from a case about whether the state has properly carried out a 2014 constitutional amendment backed by environmental groups. 

Judge Charles Dodson issued a one-paragraph order Monday denying a motion for his disqualification.

Dodson last month ruled that lawmakers had failed to properly comply with the voter-approved constitutional amendment, which required using money from a real-estate tax to bolster land and water conservation.

Environmental groups filed legal challenges against the state, contending that lawmakers had diverted portions of the money to other expenses.

Attorneys for legislative leaders this month requested disqualification of Dodson, raising a series of arguments about his handling of the case and contending that he had violated due-process rights.

The motion also said legislative leaders have a “well-grounded fear that future proceedings before this court will not be fair and impartial.”

But attorneys for the Florida Defenders of the Environment and the Florida Wildlife Federation argued in a court document last week that the motion for disqualification should be rejected.

“The legislative parties simply disagree with the content of the trial judge’s final judgment and seek to disqualify him on that basis,” the environmental groups argued. “The legislative parties’ remedy is to appeal.”

Attorneys for the state also have filed a motion for a rehearing in the case --- a request that has drawn objections from the environmental groups.

Dodson had not ruled on that motion as of Wednesday morning, according to an online docket.