If you want proof showing the political divide between the Florida Supreme Court and the First DCA, then Sanders v. City of Orlando is Exhibit “A”. 

In what is best described as a oddly worded opinion, and which Justice Quince writes for the majority, the High Court grants jurisdiction to the Judge of Compensation Claims to review settlement agreements, even though the statute no longer requires JCC’s to approve settlements.   Since amended in 2001, section 440.20 only requires the JCC to consider the fairness of Claimant’s attorney fees and child support arrearage.   Under today’s law, the JCC’s no longer approve settlements.

Considering the First DCA just ruled in Bongura that written settlement agreements are not necessary for a JCC to recognize a settlement exists, the Supremes seem to be going in the opposite direction.  The High Court wants more judicial intervention and discretion at the JCC level.  

An interesting position to take considering the core issue in the Emma Murray appeal is whether the JCC should be given restored discretionary powers to award hourly attorney fees to Claimants.

It should be noted that the vote of the Supreme Court went along political lines.  The majority (Quince, Pariente, Anstead, Lewis, with swing voter Wells) consisted mostly of liberal leaning justices.  Many appellate prognosticators are predicting this is how the Supreme Court may rule on Emma Murray (minus Wells).  Quince does dive into statutory interpretation, writing that if a statute is clear and unambiguous then there is no reason for the Court to interpret the statute on their own.

What effect Sanders on every day litigation is foggy at best–settlement agreements are rarely disputed by Claimants.  But, I believe this case gives insight into how the Supreme Court may rule in Emma Murray.

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