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State Granted Change of Venue In Teachers Union Lawsuit Challenging School Reopen Order

FEA zoom suit.png
Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court
A screenshot from Florida's Eleventh Judicial Circuit court's Zoom hearing Thursday. The Florida Education Association's lawsuit is challenging the state Department of Education's order requiring school districts to open brick-and-mortar schools in the fall.

Florida’s statewide teachers union is challenging the state’s order to open brick and mortar schools in the fall – and the lawsuit is being moved to a Leon County court.

The change of venue, to the Second judicial circuit, was granted after lawyers for the Department of Education filed a motion to do so. Angel Cortiñas is an attorney representing the state agency and other defendants, like Governor Ron DeSantis.

“The state of Florida defendants are entitled to defend their statewide emergency order in a single jurisdiction, in their home venue of Leon County,” Cortiñas said.

Lawyers for the Florida Education Association argued the case should be kept in Miami-Dade County’s eleventh circuit court because the hard-hit area is Florida’s COVID-19 “epicenter.” However, the argument didn’t convince Eleventh Circuit judge Spencer Eig.

“What is the advantage of litigating tin Miami-Dade County? If the plaintiffs had agreed to this motion last week and transferred the case to the Second Circuit, then today you all would be talking about public health and education, rather than about civil procedure,” Eig told the FEA’s counsel. “And, if I deny the motion, then tomorrow you will be in the Third District Court of Appeal talking about civil procedure.”

FEA president Fedrick Ingram is blasting the move of venue as a “delay tactic” by the state’s legal team.

“The judge did grant the governor’s side the ability to transfer the case. We have asked for, and I believe have been granted, an expedited move up to Tallahassee, so we’re trying to make sure that we hear the merits of the case as soon as we possibly can,” Ingram told media after Thursday’s hearing.

Judge Eig said Thursday the moving of the case would be expedited.

The FEA filed the suit last month. It alleges the forced opening of brick-and-mortar schools during a public health crisis is unconstitutional.