by Rick Boettger…….
Judge Koenig Supports Self-Recused Judge Helms, Requiring a 3rd Amendment of Plaintiffs’ Case
The installation of grinder pumps up the Keys in many homes that should have gravity systems has gotten a dedicated group of citizens to the barricades. In my mind, there is no doubt this was a foolish and illegal decision made by FKAA and the County. The Dump the Pumps group simply wants a judge to look at the same statutes that I’m looking at and agree that gravity, not grinder pumps are required. The folly of installing pumps dependent on electricity on private landowners’ property, which are useless when the power dies and wear out regularly, is prima facie evident, and wise statutes enforce the proper use of gravity systems. I believe any judge who actually gets to the stage of reading the statutes will agree.
I’m sure FKAA and the County know this as well. Thus, they are using the power of their “free” government legal team to drag the case out as long, and as expensively for the Citizens (both in opposition and us Monroe taxpayers), as they can. They moved to dismiss the anti-grinder suit on a number of grounds: not simple enough, not specifying who is the worse guy (FKAA or County), arguments too confusing, and no harm done yet.
The prior judge, Bonnie Helms, ruled for the government and promptly, without explanation, recused herself from the case (I doubt we’ll ever know why). The anti-grinder plaintiffs brought their case before the new Judge, Timothy Koenig, hoping for a different ruling in their favor. Judge Koenig is a legal heavyweight. I strongly believe he will rule against FKAA and the County once he can address the merits of the case.
But he ruled in favor of his fellow judge in Court yesterday morning. Basically, he said that Judge Helms’ ruling was a middle-of-the-road decision, not dismissing the plaintiffs with prejudice (which would have ended the case, pending appeal), nor moving the case forward to judgment on the merits. Instead, the plaintiffs have to re-amend their case and try again. He said Judge Helms’ interpretation of the central precedent case, Barrett v. City of Margate (Margate), was reasonable enough that her judgment had to prevail. The only cause for his over-ruling her would have been clear error, and, I have to agree, that high bar was not met.
What I have my differences on in regard to this precedent is that both judges referred to the “surplusage” problem in Margate, which they said applied to this case. I looked up Margate and see what they mean by “surplusage, though that term is not actually used in the ruling. The cases have one vast difference: Mr. Barrett was filing pro se, without an attorney, and had filed three complaints “manuscript in size” and “convoluted, verbose, narrative-style pleading, coupled with their refusal to comply with . . . the trial court’s directives . . “
This is nothing like the case presented by Attorney Kevin Hoyes, a capable local professional. His points are precise and to the point. By law he has to establish six elements, and I feel he did so with an economy of style. There is no way the government lawyers have any trouble understanding any of his non-existent “surplusage.”
Honestly, their case is simpler than my own pro se case against the City of Key West to re-open the cemetery gates. I wrote twice as much on a much simpler case, counting my supporting briefs (indeed “manuscript” sized).
Fortunately, when the Court got to ruling on my own objection to the government’s violating its own statutes, justice prevailed and I won, taking 8 months and four appearances before Judge Jones. I have every confidence justice will prevail in this case as well. Frankly, the Courts are the only part of the American governmental system I have any faith in at all. Let us beseech the heavens . .