Opinion
By Greg Jackson

So here I sit, at my desk in a cramped office plugging away on a motion for summary judgment that will hopefully get my client out of a case that, in my opinion, should not have ever been filed. Instead of sitting here, however, I should be at a local watering hole celebrating with a snifter of Johnny Walker Blue Label, neat of course, and puffing on an Ashton Maduro. You see today is the day I can pound on my chest with pride and say “I told you so.” I, a product of public school, a connoisseur of boiled peanuts and FSU fan, outwitted some of the brightest legal minds when I said, “Governor Scott absolutely had the authority to remove Aramis Ayala from all death penalty cases in Orange and Osceola counties.” For those who may have missed that, allow me to set the proverbial stage.

If you have not heard by now, in case number SC17-653, the matter of Aramis Donell Ayala, etc. v. Rick Scott, Governor, the Florida Supreme Court came back 5-to-2 in favor of Governor Scott. The ruling of the highest Court in our state confirms that Gov. Scott does indeed have
the authority to take death penalty cases from Ms. Ayala after she said to the whole world that she would never seek the death penalty, even in cases that deserve such consideration. When I first heard Ms. Ayala’s blanket statement that sought to change death penalty law in Florida, I immediately went to the airwaves and stated unequivocally that Ms. Ayala was wrong. Supporters of Ms. Ayala and opponents of the death penalty attempted to engulf me in a
hailstorm of opposition, but I endured. They said I was anti-female – which I am not. They said I was anti-Black – which is ridiculous because I am not. They said I was a Republican operative – which I am not, but would consider (just kidding). They said I was a Rick Scott fan – which I am not completely there, but I am still waiting for a reply from his office about my being appointed to a judgeship or something (wink, wink, nod). Supporters of Ms. Ayala said a lot of
interesting things about me and my position, except the one thing that was true; they failed to mention that quite simply I read the Florida Constitution and Florida Statutes. Throughout the whole debacle as people challenged me and my position I stood firm on my interpretation of the Florida Constitution and Florida Statutes, and all but guaranteed folks that the Florida Supreme Court would come back in favor of Governor Scott.

You see, instead of approaching this matter between Gov. Scott and Ms. Ayala as a Black-White, male-female, Democrat-Republican issue, I just simply read the words that outlined the role of the Governor and determined that while he may not necessarily have the authority or power to remove her from her elected office, he most certainly does have the authority to reassign her cases to another state attorney’s office since she refused to consider death penalty for any case that warranted such consideration. In a much more tactful way than I, the Florida Supreme Court said it best:

“As Florida’s chief executive officer, the Governor is vested with the ‘supreme executive power’ and is charged with the duty to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’”

In paraphrasing Chris Tucker in a comment he made to Jackie Chan in the blockbuster hit movie “Rush Hour,” the Governor (no matter who he or she is) is Michael Jackson and the State Attorneys (no matter who they are) are Tito, their respective derrieres (buttocks) belong to him. In other words, even though state attorneys are elected they fall under the executive branch of government in the State of Florida which places them under the authority of the Governor. It is shocking that none of the academic heavyweights, ivy-league educated, $1,000-an-hour lawyers working for Ms. Ayala figured this out. Instead, the academic heavyweights, ivy-league educated, $1,000-an-hour lawyers were taken to the woodshed by a couple of Florida Assistant Attorney Generals, like I was not too long ago, simply because they read the law as it was written, not in a way they wanted it to be read. Adding a bit of insult to injury to Ms. Ayala’s “Dream Team” of out of state, over-priced lawyers, the Florida Supreme Court further stated:

“Thus, under Florida law, Ayala’s blanket refusal to seek the death penalty in any eligible case, including a case that “absolutely deserve[s] [the] death penalty” does not reflect an exercise of
prosecutorial discretion; it embodies, at best, a misunderstanding of Florida law.”

If I can digress for a moment, a lesson can be learned from this. I have pointed to an interpretation of Florida Statutes before and have been doubted (i.e., Chapter 163, Part III, Florida Community Redevelopment Act). In much the same way that I was able to see through the forest with the authority of the Governor, trust me, I have seen through the weeds on Chapter 163 as well. Much like the 1981 class action lawsuit against the City of Apopka, Dowdell v. The city of Apopka Florida, where the U.S. District Court found the disparate rendering of services provided to those living in “South Apopka,” I also see a disparate use of Apopka Community Redevelopment Agency funds, funds that are going to areas other than where they are most effective and needed – South Apopka. So, to get back on track, if my ability to interpret statutory provisions is what I proclaim it to be, I predict that soon I will be pounding
my chest again and saying “I told you so” – in my humble opinion.

To read the Florida Supreme Court’s opinion, go here.

Greg Jackson

 

Greg Jackson is a former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, a military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent, insightful and entertaining piece, Mr. Jackson – thank you for taking the time to lay this out for readers. Your analysis is 100% correct.

  2. Let’s remember, there are two matters at hand. One is the Governor’s authority to remove her from the case(s) and the age old question about capital punishment. If she wants to fight the second battle, the legislature is where she needs to be, not in the current office. Since this matter has only come to light in the Loyd case, let’s look at that for a moment. What happened to his eye? What is the story regarding cameras suddenly being refocused as police were using force? One thing is true, whether you like it or not is Mr. Loyd is entitled to a fair trial just as you would be. This isn’t North Korea. Everyone of us is entitled to legal counsel and counsel is required under law to provide a competent defense for the defendant which means Mr. Loyd as well as you if you are ever the accused. Mr. Jackson focused on the actual question in this matter which is apart from the case itself. His opinion may be unpopular, however he used his ability to separate the matters accordingly which is characteristic of an exceptional attorney.

  3. Greg, I didn’t vote for Aramis Ayala, so I feel like publicly saying,” hey, don’t blame me if you don’t like her anti-death penalty actions in office”……I didn’t like all of the attack ads on tv against Jeff Ashton that I felt were unfair, and I didn’t know anything about Ayala. I had never heard of her. So I didn’t vote for her, and voted for Ashton. I had watched the Anthony case on tv and had seen how hard Ashton had tried to get justice for little Caylee Anthony and that stuck in my mind when I cast my vote.

  4. This “Mod Squad” that Ms. Ayala has collectively put together sure is expensive, if the salary is what you state, Greg….$1000 per hour for her attorneys working for her! It appears she is passing the buck to them, in order to get her way, so to speak. Who over sees these big per hour fees that she is spending so freely with the taxpayers money? Isn’t it the Florida Legislators job to over see the funding of her department? I really don’t know this stuff, but it is seems to be a constant circus between the Governor and Ms. Ayala.

    • Hello Mama Mia,

      Thank you as always for your interest and input. D.C.. lawyers are expensive and when taxpayers are footing the bill the ithe rates can hit the stratosphere.

  5. Greg, so you are hoping to get appointed some position by Governor Rick Scott? A judgeship maybe? For real? You could run for judge yourself in the elections without waiting on the Governor to appoint you….. Greg, I hope you are not a Republican operative and that your accusers were just kidding. You know you can just as easily replace the word, ” Republican” with the word, ” Russian” and they are interchangeable in the Republican operative scheme of things now days…..(.just kidding)….LOL

  6. So Ms. Ayala’s attorneys make $1000 per hour? I am sure they are in NO RUSH to get their factual information together to present the cases (drag time) and to conclude their determinations, thus acting as a jury themselves…..funny isn’t it what the REAL jury members make for taking up their time, and for traveling to be there in court, for jury duty, as it is monetary “chicken scratch”. Oh well, I’ll let you get back to enjoying your holiday weekend Greg, and back to your Johnny Walker Blue Label, and to your future thoughts on your opinion postings about the Apopka CRA. Have a great holiday weekend!

  7. I was not aware that Dexter Hughley, the man that was shot at his North Orange Apartment back in Nov. of 2016, and who was the manager of our local Apopka Wendys restaurant had died. I read that he has passed away 9 months after the shooting, and that his expensive Camaro car was stolen, and found burnt too after the shooting. So many unresolved questions about who did the crime, and who shot Dexter and burnt his car. I read the article in this week’s Apopka Chief newspaper, he died on Aug. 18, 2017. I didn’t know he had passed away, as I thought Dexter was progressing along. This is so sad. May Dexter Rest In Peace, and prayers go out to his family. The person who shot Dexter knows he or she did it, and will have to live with their self! I did not know Dexter personally, but he did wait on me often, when I went for fast food, and he always told me to have a blessed day as I left. Will justice ever be served for Dexter now that he is gone? He may have passed away, but it is still a unsolved homicide, and someone is out there among us, that did it!

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