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Court slaps down Crist and Legislature for money-saving measure

Judge Kevin Davey on Thursday week struck down as unconstitutional a new system of public defenders to handle conflict cases that can't be handled by elected public defenders. The GOP-controlled Legislature during the 2007 session created a system of regional conflict counsels as a way to cut down on the costs of hiring private outside attorneys.

But the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers sued and Davey ruled that the Legislature exceeded its authority by requiring the new offices and that Gov. Charlie Crist exceeded his by appointing the five special public defenders. The court also quashed the appointments of the five attorneys who were tasked with setting up law offices.

Davey wrote that the Legislature had attempted to amend the constitution ``by legislative fiat.''

"From the beginning of this process our primary concern has been to ensure that Florida citizens accused of committing crimes received a vigorous defense from competent lawyers armed with the necessary resources to protect their constitutional rights,'' said association president A. Russell Smith.

The office of Attorney General Bill McCollum on Friday filed a notice of appeal with the 1st District Court of Appeal.

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John Jay

The real significance of this story is that it reflects the defeat of an attempt by the Legislature and Governor to shift the cost of this state program from State taxpayers to local, property tax taxpayers.

The Legislature and the Governor have been shifting the costs of education from state taxes to local property taxes for some 6 years.

This shifting of the tax burden from state taxes, like sales taxes, to property taxes is one of the top three reasons why property taxes are so high.

Herald, wake up and smell the coffee. Do not miss the real story here.

Taxpayers, keep in mind that the Legislative leaders and the Governor who are most loudly promoting lower property taxes actually cooperated to increase your property taxes by this gimic of shifting the cost of state programs to the property tax.

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