MEMORANDUM OF LAI
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1. Is a local law constitutional when that law requires
the SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT, a public
corporation, to convey to certain landowners "unused"
portions of easements on property abutting Haines Creek,
all in Lake County, Florida, which easements were previously
donated by these landowners to the Oklawaha Basin Recreatior
and Water Conservation and Control Authority and which
easements were later transferred to the SOUTHWEST FLORIDA
WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT?
2. Is a local law void which purports to require the SOUTH-
WEST FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT to convey certain
easements in public lands to private individuals, when in
the title of that local law there is no mention of the
SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT?
3. Is a local law so vague as to be unconstitutional when that
law creates an estate in land known as a "joint usership,"
and which law also attempts to provide a method for
abutting property owners to acquire unused portions of
donated easements, a boundary of said easements being the
"bank" of Haines Creek, when the term "bank" is defined
nowhere in the statute?
1. The first question should be answered in the negative.
The Florida Constitution of 1968, Article III, Section II (a) (10),
prohibits the legislature from enacting any "special law or general
law of local application pertaining to disposal of public property,
including any interest therein, for private purposes."
Senate Bill 1638, which was passed by the Legislature on June 4,
1971, and became a law without the governor's signature, is a local
law dealing with lands only in Lake County, Florida. It requires
the SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT, owner of easements
in public property, to convey to certain private landowners, upon
demand, these easements which had previously been donated as public
* property. That is, this law attempts to require the District to
dispose of public property for private purposes, thereby violating
Article III, Section II (a) (10).
Generally, courts construe constitutional language according to
its surface meaning. It appears that the provision in Article III,
Section II (a) (10), is clear on its face. However,
"The fundamental object to be sought in construing a
constitutional provision is to ascertain the intent of
the framers and the provision must be construed or
interpreted in such manner as to fulfill the intent of
the people, never to defeat it." Gray v. Bryant, 125
So. 2d 846 (underscoring supplied).
A recent Florida Supreme Court case, Hawek v. Lee County, 231
So. 2d 214 (Fla. 1970), placed great reliance on the minutes of the
Constitution Revision Commission. An examination of the pertinent
portions of these minutes (copy attached) reveals that the Revision
- Commission intended Article III, Section II (a) (10) to prohibit all
special acts that attempt to dispose of public property, and Senate
Bill 1638 represents the type of legislation that the members of the
Constitutional Revision Commission sought to prohibit.
Mr. Friday, p. 196-197, "This would absolutely prohibit
any local legislation relating to the disposal of public
property..... you have certain limitations upon how you
can go about disposing of public property anyway by
and, Mr. Taylor, p. 198 "......somebody should explain to
the Commission what the purpose of this was. Where the
State Road Department or the Forestry Department, or some
other state agency has land in a certain county, it is a
state asset and should be handled as a state asset, rather
than disposed of according to a local law by some local
situation, to meet some local situation that might not be
to the interest of the state as a whole........
purpose (is) to require that there be a general procedure
for the disposal of borrow pits, excess right-of-ways,
anything of that sort that the state might own in the county
rather than leaving it to local legislature."
2. This question must be answered in the affirmative
The Florida Constitution of 1968, Article III, Section 6,
provides that-the subject of every law shall be briefly expressed
in the title. This constitutional provision was intended to require
that the general nature and substance of the content of the body of a
statute be apparent to one who reads the title. County of Hillsborough
V. Price, 149 So. 2d 912. This provision prevents surprise or fraud
on the legislators and on the people that might result from provisions
hidden in the body of the statute and not indicated by its title. It
is to insure that sufficient information appears in the title to a
statute to put interested persons on notice or inquiry as to its
contents. State v. Florida State Turnpike Authority, 80 So. 2d 337;
State ex rel. Parrish v. Lee, 23 So. 2d 731.
The title to Senate Bill 1638 reads as follows:
"A bill to be entitled An Act relating to Lake County;
providing for a description of the center line of Haines
Creek; providing method for abutting property owners to
acquire unused portions of donated easements; providing
for a joint user-ship maintenance and spoil area; pro-
viding this act not applicable to dams, spillways or the
approaches thereto owned by a public body; providing an
First, the nature and substance of the body of the statute
is to require the SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT, upon
demand, to convey permanent easements in public lands to private
'- individuals. There is no mention of the SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WATER
MANAGEMENT DISTRICT in the title and the statute fails in this respect,
Secondly, the SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT,
~- certainly aninterested person, is not put on notice or inquiry by
the title of the statute because there is no mention of the SOUTHWEST
FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT in the title. The only interested
parties put on notice are abutting property owners on Haines Creek.
3. This question must be answered in the affirmative.
Statutues which are too vague to be intelligible are a
nullity. In order to be valid a statute or law must be definite
and certain. Brock v. Hardie, 154 So. 691; Bayou Barber College, Inc.
~ v. Mincey, 193 So. 2d 610.
Examination of Senate Bill 1638 discloses at least two
areas in which the law is so vague as to be unconstitutional.
SIn Section 2 of the law, it is provided that the "SOUTH-
WEST FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT shall quitclaim unto said
abutting owners all portions of such easements or deeds in excess of
from the center line of the main channel of Haines Creek, located in
Lake County, Florida, to the bank of said Haines Creek........"
There is nothing in the statute to define where and what the bank is,
or whether it is to include certain walls built along the river.
Even common usage of the term does not help when consideration is
given to the raising and lowering of water levels due to seasonal
rains and the operation of certain control structures along Haines
Creek, thereby actually changing the location or extent of the
referred to "bank."
Also, the statute attempts to create an estate in land
referred to as a "joint usership." This estate is not familiar to
Florida jurisprudence and the rights of the parties in and to this
estate are uncertain and vague.
The statute attempts to give the SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WATER
MANAGEMENT DISTRICT the right to use a ten foot strip of this land
as a maintenance and spoil area, provided it is done "in a manner
which will minimize damage and use to the property and to the property
owners and in a manner not inconsistent with the use to which the
property is being put."
This statute, then, appears to give the SOUTHWEST FLORIDA
WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT the use of the land for a spoil area, but
then takes this use away if this would be inconsistent with the use
of the property by the fee owner. Almost any use by the SOUTHWEST
FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT, for the purposes it desires, would
be foreclosed by this statute, and just what the District can use this
land for is not clear due to the "inconsistent" provision.