Below is an update on the Save the Pier Lawsuit from Kathleen Ford.
I did not see a newspaper article this weekend, but none of this surprises me. Let me be clear, however, that the Court ORDERED me to name all of the plaintiffs.
The reason ALL of the petitioners must be named in this lawsuit is because each and every one of them has an interest (the right to a referendum on the preservation of the Pier) that will be impacted by the Court’s decision. The petitioners are “necessary parties.”
The Court does not want to face 15,652 lawsuits. Rather, there should be one lawsuit with everyone joined. Thus, all of the petitioners must be included. (And, that is why I originally referred to them as “15,652 petitioners.”)
Furthermore, I do not need all of the petitioners’ “permission” to be included in the lawsuit because they are “necessary parties.” Their participation in this lawsuit is indispensable to the Court ruling on any one petitioner’s complaint. Now that we have to name them, however, it is appropriate to give them notice of the lawsuit. And, we have prepared a notice to be mailed and posted.
All of the petitioners have to be in the lawsuit as either plaintiffs or defendants because the Court will make this decision once. I am representing the plaintiffs without charge for legal fees. (And, Vote on the Pier.com has paid court costs and, many have donated to cover those costs so that we can bring this action and mediate as ordered by the Court).
If a petitioner does not want to be a plaintiff, then he or she will be a defendant. There should be no risk to any petitioner for being liable for the City’s attorneys’ fees and costs because there is no statute that allows prevailing parties’ recovery of attorneys’ fees in this Petition for Writ of Mandamus and this is not a frivolous lawsuit. Some contracts and state laws allow a prevailing party to recover attorneys’ fees and costs. That is not the case here.
Now, if a petitioner wants to be a defendant there could be a fee for serving a summons and a copy of the Amended Complaint that we would be facing. Then that petitioner would have to hire their own attorney or represent themselves. I am including my contact information on the notice so that I can apprise them of that. We will just have to see how people respond.
Regarding what the winning party in a lawsuit can recover:
At a final hearing the prevailing party can recover costs.
57.041 Costs; recovery from losing party.—
(1) The party recovering judgment shall recover all his or her legal costs and charges which shall be included in the judgment; but this section does not apply to executors or administrators in actions when they are not liable for costs.
(2) Costs may be collected by execution on the judgment or order assessing costs.
THERE IS NO RECOVERY OF ATTORNEYS’ FEES
The only party who has incurred costs, thus far, are the Petitioners-the $375.00 filing fee and the $120.00 service of process fees. I paid for the subpoena of the City Clerk and the Court reporter for the hearing.
There is no basis for the Times reporter suggesting that the petitioners would be liable for the City attorneys’ fees and costs. There is no statute that allows the City to recover its attorneys’ fees and I have received no letter from the City seeking statutory FS §57.105 fees, a precursor to the City seeking recovery of attorneys’ fees for a frivolous lawsuit.
The issues for the Court to decide re the petitioners is: whether they have standing to bring this action (the Court ruled that the petitioners I identified in a Notice of Filing – a copy of the 513 page document from the Supervisor of Elections validating the 15,652 petitioners did have standing.) and whether they are all properly before the Court. With the filing of the Amended and Restated Petition, they are all properly before the Court.
The Court also noted that the proper defendant is just the City (because the City Council is a part of the City) and thus I dropped the City Council as a body (although they would be the subject of the Writ of Mandamus) and the CRA which can make decisions about CRA district property. I made my point-the City should not use the CRA to do an end run around a ruling directed towards the City Council relating to the Pier. I included the CRA for the 3rd Count of the lawsuit where I am seeking an injunction. I was hoping that the Court would rule fairly quickly on this issue so that an injunction would not be necessary.
Now someone may have been whispering in the reporter’s ears that seeking an injunction is expensive. It is. That is why I am the only plaintiff seeking an injunction (and not any of the 15,652 petitioners) in the amended Complaint. And, I will seek an injunction only if there is enough money to do so. Seeking an injunction requires a bond (10% of the anticipated costs of staying in status quo-here that would mean the construction delay costs if the Court enjoined the City from demolition activities pending a vote on the Pier.) and expert testimony (potentially) about the condition of the Pier. Several of us have noted the additional allocation of $500,000 to Skanska relating to the pier and we suspect this is to pay for the expert testimony to suggest that the inverted pyramid structure is not structurally sound in the event that mediation fails and the Court fails to make a ruling in the Petitioners favor and I appeal to the Second District
Court of Appeals.
At the hearing I pointed out to the Court that we moved as quickly as possible to get this issue resolved because we knew that the bridge needed to be replaced. The Court asked if “time was an issue”. Unbelievably, the City attorney said no (guess who is playing the delay game here). I said we wanted to get a ballot question for the spring elections. Thus, the Court ordered mediation within 60 days.
The Court will review at final hearing whether the required number of petitions were obtained and certified ( a Notice of filing requests that the Court take judicial notice of the Supervisor of Elections’ records) and determine whether the governing body for the City (City Council) had a ministerial duty to put forth a referendum question on the Pier and failed to do so. I will submit affidavits from a few petitioners stating that they were denied their right to vote when City Council failed to put forth ANY language whatsoever regarding the Pier. The Court then decides. The case law is heavily in favor of the petitioners and against the City. I suspect that is why the City alleged in its Motion to Dismiss that the City was ready, willing, able and eager to put forth ballot language, that the petitioners just could not agree. Simply BS. And, the Court pointedly referenced those words at the hearing and ordered mediation within 60 days.
Thank you for all that you are doing to give the citizens of St. Petersburg the right to vote on the future of at least one portion of our precious waterfront! After reviewing all 15,652 names (two current clients, one past opposing party-no conflicts!) prior to filing I was stunned, once again, that all but one elected official has consistently the people and ignored the impact to the public purse!
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