Florida Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Water Management District

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On May 22, 2014 the Florida Supreme Court in South Florida Water Management District v RLI Live Oak, LLC, No. SC12-2336 ruled that in circumstances where a Florida Statute authorizes a state governmental agency like the Water Management District to recover a civil penalty in a judicial forum, then the agency must only prove the violation by a preponderance of the evidence. In this case the applicable statue did not specify the agencies burden to prove the violation.  The Supreme Court distinguished its previous ruling in Department of Banking & Finance V Osborne Stern & Co. 670 So. 2d 932 (Fla. 1996) and held that the “clear and convincing evidence” burden is not applicable to the statute enforced by the Water Management District.  At the trail court, the Water Management District successfully obtained civil penalties for  the unauthorized filling of wetlands. The Supreme Court’s ruling will make it less onerous on Water Management Districts in Florida to successfully win civil penalties for wetland violations.

 

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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