Compiled from Times staff and wire reports
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 20, 2000
Bar can campaign for ballot measure, high court rules
The Florida Bar can spend time and money supporting a Nov. 7 referendum that would expand the appointment and merit retention of judges to trial courts.
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a petition asking the court to block the Bar from supporting the measure. Gainesville lawyer Joe Little filed the petition.
Voters are being asked to approve a local option measure that would allow some counties and circuits to use merit retention for selecting trial court judges.
Under current law, county and circuit court judges are selected in nonpartisan elections and only appellate court judges are appointed by the governor and retained in merit retention elections where voters are asked to vote yes or no.
Business groups ask court to stop high-speed train vote
TALLAHASSEE -- A coalition of business groups asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to remove from the November ballot an initiative that would require the building of a high-speed train in Florida.
The groups, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, said the wording on the ballot is confusing. Their petition asks the court to strip the question from the ballot, or if it is too late for that, nullify the results.
The proposed constitutional amendment would order state government to begin construction on the train linking Florida's five largest urban areas by November 2003. Lawmakers would define those areas.
The groups argued that lawmakers could define "largest" areas in different ways, using actual city populations, populations of metropolitan areas, or some other method.
The justices ruled this month that the high-speed rail measure could go on the ballot, certifying that the ballot question was limited to one subject as required by law and was clearly explained in the title and summary.
Appeals court says teen had the right to swear at police
MIAMI -- Can you swear at a police officer and get away with it?
A Florida appellate court said "yes" Wednesday, ruling that such language, though offensive, is protected speech under the U.S. Constitution.
The 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that Miami-Dade police violated the free-speech rights of a teenager last year when they arrested him for disorderly conduct. The purported crime: Wilbert L. Lee, then 17, allegedly yelled, "Why are these crackers f------ with us?" as officers tried to question him and several others about suspected drug activity.
The three-judge appellate panel reversed Lee's conviction by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge James Henderson in Juvenile Court last December. His six-month probationary sentence was vacated.
The two arresting officers said Lee was among about 20 youths hanging out in a suspected drug dealing area on the evening of Aug. 18, 1999. The officers demanded identification from Lee so they could fill out a "field card" -- a profile of suspected drug dealers.
When Lee yelled vulgarities at them, according to the officers, they feared for their safety -- though they never called for backup, the appellate judges noted in their written opinion.
Lee "never physically interfered with the police, never physically threatened them in any manner and never impeded the execution of their legal duty," according to the unanimous opinion. "The conduct for which (Lee) was punished was pure speech, and is thus protected by the First Amendment."
Elementary teacher accused of having sex with teen
HAINES CITY -- An elementary school teacher is accused of having sex with a high school student.
Kimberly Lynn Lucas, 23, was charged Wednesday with one count of performing lewd acts in the nine-month relationship she had with the boy, who was 14 at the time.
Lucas, a teacher at Landmark Christian Elementary School, was released from jail on bond. The boy was a student at Landmark Christian High School.
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire