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Here’s The Scoop….Bert J. Harris…Who Knew?…

May 26, 2009 by Barbara


‘Bert J. Harris, Jr.
Known as a champion of private property rights in Florida, former State Representative Bert J. Harris Jr., made the promotion of agriculture his life’s avocation. A 1943 honors graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in agriculture, Harris served as a corporal in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. A citrus grower and rancher himself, Harris owned Rainbow Caladiums and was an independent farming consultant until his election into the Legislature. Harris’ efforts with the passage of private property rights to protect landowners from excessive government resulted in the naming of the bill the “Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act.” He also sponsored legislation to settle citrus canker cases, passed legislation to prevent the disparagement of perishable food products and worked to meet the Greenbelt Law.’

BC….Thanks to a faithful Reader for finding a short bio of Bert J. Harris…Mr. Harris was far- reaching in being “attached” to property rights and big time litigation…as shown in his bio…he was also involved in the citrus canker cases….which most likely rank right up there with Bert J. Harris suits…for litigation…For this writer living in Pompano Beach in the 1990’s this property “invasion” came firsthand with citrus canker “police” hopping our fence in search of their prey…as they roamed the neighborhoods…

‘City of Pompano Beach, et al v. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:
As indicated in prior Litigation Reports, on May 24, 2002, Judge Fleet issued a 19 page Order
on the Motion for Temporary Injunction in which he concluded that the Amendments
regarding the Citrus Canker litigation enacted by the Florida Legislature as codified in Florida
Statutes Section 581.184, was an invalid invasion of the constitutional safeguard contained in
both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Florida. The Judge
ultimately entered a statewide Stay Order enjoining the Department of Agriculture from
entering upon private property in the absence of a valid search warrant issued by an authorized
judicial officer and executed by one authorized by law to do so. The Florida Department of
Agriculture and Consumer Services filed its Notice of Appeal seeking review by the 4th
District Court of Appeal. The Department of Agriculture also filed a Motion with the 4th
District Court of Appeal seeking that the appellate procedures be expedited, and a motion in which
there was a suggestion for “bypass” certification to the Supreme Court of Florida. The
Department of Agriculture contended that in light of the gravity and emergency nature of the
issues, the matter should be certified by the 4th District Court of Appeal directly to the
Supreme Court for its adjudication since the Department of Agriculture anticipated that
regardless as to how the 4th District Court of Appeal rules on the matter, it would in fact be
appealed by either the Department of Agriculture or by the County and coalition of cities to
the Supreme Court of Florida for final adjudication. The 4th District Court of Appeal in fact
for only the fourth time in its history, did certify this matter directly to the Florida Supreme
Court for adjudication. The Florida Supreme Court however, refused to hear this matter at
this stage and remanded it back to the 4th District Court of Appeal for further proceeding.
Both the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the County and
coalition of cities have filed their respective Appellate Briefs. The Florida Department of
Agriculture recently filed a Reply Brief to the Brief filed by Broward County and the coalition
of cities. The Town Attorney has once again spoken with the Chief Appellate Attorney for
Broward County, Andrew Meyers, and he has again confirmed at this point,that oral argument
has not yet been set by the 4th District Court of Appeal. In the meantime, the Florida
Department of Agriculture has served a series of Interrogatories upon the Town of Davie and
each of the other defendants. The Town Attorney’s Office has been in contact with Mr.
Bernard and confirmed with him that the Town has no knowledge of any employee,
contractor or representative of the State having entered upon the Town’s property to inspect
any of its trees for canker. An appropriate response to the Interrogatories is being prepared
and will be filed within the time permitted by the Rules of Civil Procedure’

‘ALI-ABA Course of Study
Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation
January 8 – 10, 2009
Miami Beach, Florida
Florida’s Citrus Canker Eradication Program:
A Case Study on Litigating a Takings Claim as a Class Action
Robert C. Gilbert
Hanzman Gilbert LLP
Coral Gables, Florida

Robert C. Gilbert is a member of Hanzman Gilbert LLP in Miami, Florida, who limits his
practice to complex litigation and arbitration. Mr. Gilbert may be contacted at (305) 529-9100 or
[email protected]

Tenney v. City of Miami Beach, 11 So. 2d 188, 189 (Fla. 1942).

Johnson v. Plantation General Hospital, 641 So. 2d 58, 60 (Fla. 1994).
Florida’s Citrus Canker Eradication Program:
a Case Study on Litigating a Takings Claim as a Class Action
by Robert C. Gilbert, Esq.

More than half a century ago, the Florida Supreme Court articulated the importance of the
class action device:
[T]he very purpose of a ‘class suit’ is to save the multiplicity of suits,
to reduce the expense of litigation, to make legal procedures more

effective and expeditious, and to make available a remedy that would

otherwise not exist. That rationale is even more compelling today. With over crowded courts and enormous costs
associated with complex litigation,class actions often determine whether victims of wrong doing will
recover damages or whether such conduct will go unpunished. Courts have repeatedly emphasized
that the “purpose of a class action is to provide litigants who share common questions of law and fact
with an economically viable means of addressing their needs in court.”

The class action device can be successfully utilized by practitioners representing property
owners in takings litigation. Litigating certain takings claims as a class action may provide an
effective and efficient remedy to many affected property owners who would otherwise be unable to
pursue a viable remedy on an individual basis. Our eight year experience prosecuting inverse
condemnation claims on behalf of thousands of Florida homeowners provides a case study on
handling a takings case as a class action.
Background. Citrus canker is a bacterial disease affecting citrus trees.’

The Greenbelt Law…

‘Tax Loophole Repeal Overdue
Wed, 2008-07-09

A 1959 Florida state law was intended to preserve agriculture. A loophole-laden “greenbelt law” allows developers to win farm subsidies (tax breaks) even when they are preparing land for subdivisions and strip malls. This practice that is widespread across Florida places and unfair tax burden on residential and commercial business property owners.

It was reported in the St. Petersburg Times June 28th issue that Hillsborough election chief Buddy Johnson received an agriculture tax break after leasing 19.98 acres for $20 per year as grazing for a few cows reducing the tax value of his property more than $560,000.
An August 21, 2005 internet report by Miami Herald reporters listed several tax loophole abuses:

• Developer Armand Codina and his partners pay ranchers to keep cows
on their land in northeast Miami-Dade County so they can get agriculture tax breaks while building industrial warehouses. Cordina also requested Miami-Dade to declare a soggy wasteland littered with down trees an environmentally contaminated “brownfield”, resulting in 2004 property tax savings $250,273.
• Developer Pan American purchased a lot to build warehouses; industrial
zoning prohibits farming. He won a tax break after paying a rancher to
graze some cows on his lot, resulting in a 2004 tax savings of $183,207.
• Sixteen cows were placed on 49 acres amid concrete pads and utility
boxes where a developer plans to build homes priced at $1.5 million and
up. Broward County appraiser’s office denied the application for a tax
break, however a hearing officer overturned the decision, no appeal was
filed, resulting in a 2004 Tax savings $140,168.
• “But of the top 60 tax break recipients in South Florida in 2004, more than two-thirds are not farmers.”

Associate Press report published April 3, 2006: “Orlando – Walt Disney World avoids $1.5-million in Osceola County taxes each year by leasing some of its land to a farmer and claiming almost 650 undeveloped acres as timberland and swamp marsh.

The “tax loophole” was placed in this law by Florida Legislators to benefit land developers at the expense of millions of other Florida property owners. The developers who have not taken advantage of this “tax loophole” are to be commended.

Our economy is the worse now than it has been in decades. Anyone who doubts that we are in a “recession” also must believe in the “tooth fairy”. What could be a more appropriate time than now to repeal this “tax loophole”? Its repeal is long overdue. Gov. Crist should call a “special session” of the Legislature before the November 2008 elections for the sole purpose of repealing this “tax loophole”.

Darrell Weston, Beverly Hills, Florida’

BC- Bert J. Harris will be discussed behind closed doors…tonight at the LBTS Regular Commission meeting…7 pm Jarvis Hall…

more of both sides to come……….

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