LEON COUNTY, Fla. – The Broward County cities of Coral Springs, Coconut Creek, Pembroke Pines and Wilton Manors sued the state of Florida and Florida officials in an effort to enact local ordinances promoting gun safety. The suit alleges that Florida’s punitive firearms preemption law unconstitutionally and illegally threatens local legislators and municipalities for enacting ordinances that may later be found to be preempted by Florida state law. Shortly after filing an initial complaint, the cities consolidated their suit with two similar lawsuits. In the consolidated case, thirty municipalities, three counties, and more than eighty elected local officials seek to overturn the punitive provisions of the preemption law.
Under the punitive aspect of Florida’s firearms preemption law, if a city passes gun violence prevention legislation that is later found to be preempted, the municipality can be forced to pay up to $100,000 in damages per lawsuit plus unlimited legal fees, and the elected officials who voted to pass the ordinance can be fined up to $5,000 and removed from office if they are found to have acted knowingly and willfully. The lawsuit challenges these punitive provisions as an unconstitutional attempt to punish local officials for legislating in good faith and on behalf of their constituents, as well as an illegal barrier to intimidate local officials in an effort to thwart local attempts at passing lawful gun safety regulations.
Everytown for Gun Safety’s Litigation Team and Proskauer Rose LLP are lead counsel in the suit, which also includes as plaintiffs former Commissioner Dan Daley of Coral Springs, Mayor Frank Ortis of Pembroke Pines, Rebecca Tooley, Commissioner of Coconut Creek, and Mayor Justin Flippen of Wilton Manors.
The legal challenge includes ten separate claims, including allegations that the punitive provisions violate: (a) legislative immunity, separation of powers and governmental immunity; (b) the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as the constitutional right to due process; and (c) the home rule and other provisions of the Florida Constitution.
The Leon County Circuit Court granted the cities’ motion for summary judgment in July 2019, holding that the punitive provisions are unconstitutional on several grounds.
The court’s ruling is first-of-its kind nationally to find that penalizing local officials for passing gun regulations is unconstitutional. The state appealed the circuit court’s decision on November 23, 2019.