Appellate Court Rules in the City of Tallahassee’s Favor but Fails to Address Broader Constitutional Question of Whether Elected Officials Can be Penalized for their Votes

An appeals court recently rejected a lawsuit that challenged the city of Tallahassee’s decades-old gun laws that had been pre-empted by a newer state law. In doing so, the court said the city did not violate the law by failing to repeal old laws it was not enforcing.

Bryant Miller Olive filed a friend of court brief in the case on behalf of the Florida League of Cities, a statewide organization of more than 400 municipalities founded on the belief that local self-governance is the keystone of American democracy.

The Florida League of Cities takes no position on gun control or the state’s pre-emptive authority, said BMO attorney Ellie Neiberger. However, the League does take issue with the portion of the state law that imposes personal, financial liability and other penalties on elected city officials for simply voting “yes” on laws brought before them. The League believes this law subjects elected city officials to personal liability for the very act of governing and has a chilling effect on the willingness of average citizens to serve their cities and their fellow citizens.

While BMO was pleased with the court’s decision affirming dismissal of the lawsuit, it was disappointed that the judges did not address the constitutional legality of penalizing elected officials.

The League is concerned that provisions of this type appear to be an emerging trend in the state legislature, where several bills failed in the last session that would have imposed civil liabilities on lawmakers based on their votes.

Read the appellate court’s decision here:

https://edca.1dca.org/DCADocs/2015/5520/155520_1284_02032017_024818_i.pdf