In a recent post, I discussed the Fifth DCA’s use of the “supremacy-of-text principle” to resolve statutory interpretation. The Third DCA recently applied the principle to determine whether a county is a “county” or a “municipality” under section 112.3187(9)(f), Florida Statutes. The case is Garavan v. Miami-Dade County.
In the case, a former employee for the County was seeking temporary reinstatement of his position under Florida’s Whistleblower Act.
The former employee relied on section 112.3187(9)(f), which generally allows for temporary reinstatement pending the outcome of the whistleblower complaint.
Section 112.3187(9)(f), however, also provides that a former employee is not entitled to temporary reinstatement if the former employee was employed by a municipality. The term “municipality” is not defined in the statute.
The County argued that it is a municipality because it has the powers of a municipality; thus, the former employee was not entitled to temporary reinstatement. The former employee argued that he was entitled to temporary reinstatement because the County is a county, not a municipality.
To resolve the issue, the Third DCA applied classic textualism principles.
First, the Court looked to the plain meaning of “municipality” and “county.” The Court utilized dictionary definitions, as well as other common understandings of the terms under Florida law.
The Court concluded that “the unambiguous, clear meaning, the ordinary meaning, and every other pertinent canon of construction supports the understanding that a county and a municipality are distinct entities.”
Second, the Court determined the context of section 112.3187 supports that counties and municipalities are distinct units. In reaching this conclusion, the Court noted that the terms are used separately in the statute.
Ultimately, the Court held that counties and municipalities are distinct by focusing on (1) the plain meaning of the terms (2) within the context of the statute. The case provides another good example of a Florida appellate court using textualism to resolve statutory interpretation.
Jonathan Taylor is a senior attorney with The Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. Mr. Taylor concentrates in the areas of Florida tax appeals and general administrative appeals. Mr. Taylor also volunteers with Guardian ad Litem to handle appellate matters. Mr. Taylor can be reached at 954-234-2884 or email@example.com.