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State Supreme Court Considers Financial Obligations Under Amendment 4

November 6th, 2019 by Mike Vasilinda

Questions of when a felon has completed their sentence swirled at the Florida Supreme Court Wednesday.

In August, the Governor asked the court for an advisory opinion as to what the amendment approved by voters really means, but the answer is likely to come from a federal court, not the state’s highest court.

The attorney for the Governor, Joseph Jacquot, told justices getting an answer as to what “completion of all terms of sentence” really means is urgent.

“Elections are coming, and the Governor has the responsibility to protect the integrity of the electoral process,” said Jacquot.

Justices wanted to know if restitution was also included.

“That’s not a term of sentence? That would be new me under Florida law,” said Justice Barbara Lagoa.

A Federal lawsuit over fines and fees is already underway.

ACLU attorney Anton Marion told state justices that requiring those payments would violate the federal constitution and not fulfill voters wishes.

“It does not require the payment of all financial obligations because doing so would mean every person unable to pay is serving a life sentence. It can not be that more than four out of five returning citizens is serving a life sentence,” said Marion.

Afterwards, the Governor’s lawyers didn’t respond to questions.

The ACLU called the hearing a publicity stunt.

“Part of the reason he sought this opinion is that he wanted to prevent the Federal Court for making a decision,” said ACLU Florida Legal Director Daniel Tilley.

What opinion the Supreme Court issues won’t be binding.

The real decision on felons rights will be made in April after a federal court trial.

The judge in that case has already ruled Florida can’t keep someone from voting if they are too poor to pay a fine.

The court will be looking at state lawmakers to fix the law before the April trial begins.

Two of the justices hearing the case have been nominated to the Federal Appeals Court likely to hear an appeal no matter which side loses the voting rights case this April, raising the question of whether they will have to recuse themselves.

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