Trial Court’s Erroneous Handling of a Writ of Mandamus

This case concerns a dispute between the Miami-Dade County Commission and a citizens group attempting to place ballot initiative before voters through a petition process.  The County Commission rejected the citizens’s petition and the citizen’s group filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus, which was granted by the Trial Court.

The County Commission appealed. On review, the Court found that the Trial Court had failed to follow the procedure laid out in Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.630 and stated:

Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.630 sets forth the procedure for a trial court’s issuance of extraordinary writs, including a writ of mandamus. Pursuant to Rule 1.630(d)(2), “[i]f the complaint shows a prima facie case for relief, the court shall issue . . . an alternative writ in mandamus.” An alternative writ in mandamus is essentially an order to show cause. See Gilliam v. State, 996 So. 2d 956, 958 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008) (stating that if a petition for writ of mandamus states a prima facie case for relief, the trial court must issue an alternative writ, “which ‘is essentially an order to show cause why the requested relief should not be granted.’ ” (quoting Bostic v. State, 875 So. 2d 785, 786 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004))); Conner v. Mid-Fla. Growers, Inc., 541 So. 2d 1252, 1256 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989) (“Upon receipt of a facially sufficient petition for writ of mandamus, a court having jurisdiction to consider such a petition should first issue an alternative writ, which is essentially an order to show cause why the requested relief should not be granted.”). “If the petition and answer to the alternative writ raise disputed factual issues, the trial court must resolve these issues upon evidence submitted by the parties.” See Radford v. Brock, 914 So. 2d 1066, 1068 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005).

Additionally, Rule 1.630(e) provides that a defendant “shall respond to writ as provided in rule 1.140.”16 As such, a respondent must be given a reasonable time within which to file a return to the alternative writ. Conner, 541 So. 2d at 1256 (“The respondent has the right to plead to the alternative writ and will be prejudiced by the failure to allow a reasonable time within which to do so.”); Southern Realty & Utils. Corp. v. State, 181 So. 2d 552, 554 (Fla. 3d DCA 1966) (“The law requires that a reasonable time be given to file a return to an alternative writ of mandamus . . . .”).

The Third DCA reversed the Trial Court’s decision.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, ET AL. v. AN ACCOUNTABLE MIAMI-DADE, ET AL.. Case No. 3D16-2090 (3rd DCA Sept. 20, 2016)