Uhlfelder appeals dismissal of his case against the governor

Tom McLaughlin

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Walton County attorney Daniel Uhlfelder has asked an Appeals Court to overturn the dismissal of a lawsuit he filed against Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Uhlfelder initially filed the suit March 20, calling upon the courts to compel DeSantis to temporarily close the state’s beaches and to issue a statewide stay at home order as the state battled to halt the spread of COVID-19.

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He argues in the appeal it was his lawsuit that forced DeSantis to issue a safer at home order he would ultimately rescind after the lawsuit was dismissed.

“Since the dismissal of the case and DeSantis’ exercising free reign to decimate Florida, Florida is now the global epicenter (of the coronavirus,)” the appeal, filed Monday, states. “As of July 13, Florida has reported a total of approximately 282,435 cases, 18,488 hospitalizations and 4,277 deaths ... If Florida were its own country it would rank fourth in the world in new cases in a day.”

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Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll dismissed the case April 7, siding with the argument by DeSantis’ lawyers that having a court overrule actions taken by the governor would breach the constitutionally protected separation of powers existing between executive and judicial branches of government.

“What I’m being asked to do is substitute my judgment for that of the governor’s on how to respond to this COVID crisis,” Carroll told Uhlfelder, according to courtroom transcripts. “Courts are not the place that public policy ought to be done, because we’re not really equipped for it.”

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The appeal calls for the higher court to overturn Carroll’s order because DeSantis has failed to “comply with his constitutional and statutory duties.”

“The separation of powers mandates judicial intervention to protect the health and welfare of Florida citizens from DeSantis’ constitutional obligation of his sworn duties,” the appeal states. “The preservation of Floridians’ lives is dependent on the judiciary protecting them, because it is clear DeSantis has no intention of protecting their lives.”

Uhfelder asks that the Appeals Court “protect the constitutional rights of Floridians by reverting the trial court’s dismissal” and allowing his lawsuit to go forward.