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1000 Friends of Florida Defend Lawsuit Challenging Development Orders

Construction site and equipment behind a gate.
Lydell Rawls
/
WFSU Public Media
A new law requires the losing party in lawsuits about development to pay all attorney fees for the prevailing party.

1000 Friends of Florida says a 2019 state law is blocking them from doing their job. The growth management group tries to work with residents, local governments, and developers to promote sustainable development policy that protects the environment and quality of life. That can often mean filing lawsuits. But the new law requires the losing party in lawsuits about development to pay all attorney fees for the prevailing party. The group argues this creates a financial risk that ultimately bars them from taking on such cases and can block a resident’s right to due process. Attorney Richard Gross is representing the group in court.

"They’re automatically having to pay the attorney’s fees of both the local government that issued the development and the landowner or the developer who received that permit," Gross said. "That is a risk that is unacceptable to all but maybe a handful of Floridians who have the financial wherewithal to run that risk."

1000 Friends of Florida is suing to get the law repealed. The lawsuit is filed against the Department of Economic Opportunity and Secretary of State Laurel Lee. Last year, a Leon County Circuit Judge granted both parties a motion to dismiss stating they were not the proper defendants. 1000 Friends of Florida is seeking an appeal to have that opinion reversed.