So much for easing back to work after the long weekend.  At least for judges in the First District and Fourth District Court of Appeal. 

As the Miami Herald reports, the 1st DCA is hearing consolidated oral argument this afternoon in Florida Gaming Centers, Inc. v. Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and Calder Race Course, Inc. v. Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, two cases dealing with the effect of the 2004 amendment to the Florida Constitution that authorized certain existing parimutuel facilities in Broward and Miami-Dade counties (subject to voter approval in a county-wide referendum) to install slot machines.  Argument is set to begin at 2:00 PM in Courtroom One, before a panel consisting of Judges Davis, Van Nortwick, and Clark.  You can watch the argument live here.  If you miss it live, audio and video recordings of the argument should be available in the 1st DCA’s archives by no later than tomorrow morning.

[UPDATE: Here are some more details after watching the oral argument.  Former Florida Supreme Court justice Raoul Cantero argued on behalf of Hialeah Park and the other appellees, with Joel Perwin and Bruce Rogow arguing on behalf of the appellants, which are competitor parimutuels.  At issue is the validity of a 2010 law authorizing slot machines at Hialeah Park, and of the license to operate slot machines that the State granted to Hialeah Park last December, in light of the 2004 Constitutional Amendment. 

The 2004 amendment authorized slot machines only for parimutuels that were in operation from 2002-2004.  Hialeah Park didn’t qualify, so in 2010 the legislature separately authorized it to operate slot machines.  But the appellants, which stand lose business to Hialeah Park, argued that the 2004 amendment prohibited the legislature from enacting the 2010 statute. 

Counsel for the appellants conceded that prior to the 2004 amendment, the legislature had the power to authorize slot machines at Hialeah Park or anywhere else, and that it could still do so for facilities in any county except Broward and Miami-Dade, where Hialeah Park is located.  They argued, however, that by approving an amendment authorizing slot machines for Broward and Miami-Dade county parimutuels that met specified criteria, the voters impliedly prohibited the legislature from ever authorizing slot machines anywhere in Broward and Miami-Dade that did not meet those criteria. 

Appellees’ counsel countered that the amendment was merely an action by the voters to authorize slot machines in certain places.  It didn’t purport to prohibit anything, and couldn’t prohibit anything.  If that had been part of the amendment’s purpose, it would have violated the prohibition on multi-subject ballot initiatives, and the ballot materials that described the proposed amendment to voters in 2004, which said nothing about prohibiting anything, would have been misleading.

Handicapping appeals is always dangerous, but I’d put my money on the appellees in this one.  The appellants’ concession about the legislature’s power to authorize slots was probably necessary based on precedent, but it made the appellants’ argument tenuous. 

If the 2004 amendment had been the type of amendment that grants the legislature the power to do something it couldn’t previously do (i.e., to authorize slots in the first instance) then the appellants would have a strong argument for saying that the authorization was limited by its terms to entities that met the amendment’s specifications.  But I don’t see the court buying the argument that even though the legislature generally can authorize slots, an amendment authorizing slots in certain places actually took away the legislature’s power to authorize them in other places.  It takes a pretty big logical leap from the voters saying we’re only authorizing slots in certain places to the conclusion that they were really saying we’re prohibiting the legislature from ever authorizing slots anywhere else in these counties.]                 

A different panel, consisting of Judges Thomas, Wetherell, and Swan, heard oral argument this morning in Graham v. Haridopolos, which involves another Constitutional amendment adopted by ballot initiative, the 2002 amendment creating the Florida Board of Governors to be the central governing body for Florida’s state colleges and universities.  That case has something of a political history, as Democrat Graham, the former Governor and U.S. Senator, spear-headed the drive for passage of the ballot initiative after Republican then-Governor Jeb Bush signed legislation doing away with the former central governing body, the Florida Board of Regents.  Graham is the lead plaintiff/appellant and Mike Haridopolos, Republican and Florida Senate President, is the first named defendant/appellee in the case, although Graham’s co-plaintiff/appellant is former Republican Congressman Lou Frey.  The appellants assert that the Florida Legislature lacks the power to set tuition rates for state universities and colleges, because that power is vested in the Board of Governors.  Video and audio recordings of oral argument should be available in the 1st DCA’s archives shortly. 

And the 4th DCA heard oral argument yesterday in Bronner v. AMP Services, Limited, a case that is part of a multi-national litigation saga over the respective rights of heirs and charitable entities to the proceeds of the estate of Walter Bronner, a Columbian citizen and Jewish philanthropist who amassed a large estate after fleeing the Holocaust, and the estate of his widow, Anna.  According to Adolfo Pesquera’s coverage in the Daily Business Review (reg. req.’d), the Florida litigation came about, despite the Bronners having lived in Monaco prior to their deaths, based on the Bronners’ ownership of a residence in Fort Lauderdale.  Judges Hazouri and Taylor (and a third judge) sat on the panel.