Citing need to speed up executions, Florida bills would remove state’s supreme court rulemaking power regarding death penalty cases

Attacks on the Florida Supreme Court’s rule making authority in the last several years have taken on the issue broadly. In particular, several bills in the 2011/2012 session would have provided the legislature could override such rules by a simple majority (now required 2/3rds). SJR 1740, introduced this week, however, takes on a new tack and specifically limits the court’s power with respect to death penalty cases.

Florida Constitution Article V, Section 2(a) reads:

The supreme court shall adopt rules for the practice and procedure in all courts including the time for seeking appellate review, the administrative supervision of all courts, the transfer to the court having jurisdiction of any proceeding when the jurisdiction of another court has been improvidently invoked, and a requirement that no cause shall be dismissed because an improper remedy has been sought.

SJR 1740 would add a new subsection (b) to read

Notwithstanding subsection (a), postconviction or collateral review of capital cases resulting in a sentence of death shall be governed exclusively by, and to the extent provided by, general law.

Just such a general law (SB 1750) was filed along with SJR 1740. SB 1750 details the express purpose for the bill and amendment is to overturn a decision by the state’s supreme court striking down a prior legislative effort to speed up executions (HB 1A of the 2000 Special Session)

WHEREAS, in order for capital punishment to be fair, just, and humane for both the family of victims and for offenders, there must be a prompt and efficient administration of justice  following any sentence of death ordered by the courts of this state, and…

WHEREAS, the Death Penalty Reform Act of 2000, chapter 2000-3, Laws of Florida, was declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court three months after becoming a law in Allen v. Butterworth, 756 So.2d 52 (Fla. 2000), as being an encroachment on the court’s “exclusive power to ‘adopt rules for the practice and procedure in all courts,’” …

Both SJR 1740 and SB 1750 have been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.