UPDATE: With Crist An Hour Away, Spence-Jones Has Big Day In Court
Classic story of boy meets girl: city commissioner runs for re-election, picks up a grand-theft charge, and gets suspended after her big win. She runs again, wins again, and he still throws her out of office. Rah-Rah-Rah.
After a month-long commercial break, it all comes to a head today. Right about now, MSJ should be in her "bitch, please" pinstripes, sashaying into the Miami Dade County Courthouse, where a judge will decide on the constitutionality of the governor's suspension.
And actually, good-time Charlie will be in South Florida too. According to his administrative schedule, he'll be hobnobbing with some firefighters in Coral Springs just as Assistant Attorney General Charles Fahlbusch and Spence-Jones' lawyer Dennis Bedard face-off in downtown Miami.
Bedard will argue today that the state constitution's language stipulates that the governor can only suspend someone after they've been indicted. Whereas, Fahlsbusch, mustachioed and invariably attired with a bowtie, will contend that the constitution's language is in fact broad enough to allow Crist to suspend Spence-Jones. Legal experts are hedging their bets with the combative commissioner.
Joe Little, a constitutional law professor at the University of Florida, calls the governor's actions "baloney." "The constitution is discreet and specific and it's indicted," he said. "If this woman has only been informed, then the governor's constitutional powers haven't been triggered."At the last hearing, where Bedard's request for an emergency injunction was denied, judge Victoria Platzer may have revealed a glimpse of her own views.
"In state court," she said. "An indictment means you go before a grand jury. Informed means charges are brought."
For something that took an hour to decide, that last hearing was a charged one. Spence-Jones was egged on with cries of "Right the wrong" by a small cartel of supporters. They'll be at court today too. Five of them are parties in a joint lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union that alleges the governor's suspension disenfranchised them.
Platzer may very likely rule from the bench today. But even if she finds in Spence-Jones' favor, this saga won't be over today. Two weeks ago Spence-Jones hired criminal attorney Peter Raben to fight her grand-theft charge. If she fails to be acquitted of that, whoever's governor then would have specific constitutional authority to suspend her. Actually, it's a big day in courts. Spence-Jones pal Gaston Smith will learn later today what will be his sentence for stealing thousands of dollars in county grants.
As for the Governor, he'll be monitoring the hearing closely, his spokesman said. And, "there's absolutely no truth to the rumor the Governor is changing party affiliation," Sterling Ivey barked, thank you very much.
UPDATE: After a two-hour hearing, Judge Platzer decided she will take ten days to deliver an opinion. Whoever loses then, will appeal, Bedard said. Still, he said he came out of the packed courtroom feeling confident. "We did a good job, we made all our arguments, and hopefully it'll be the best for our client."