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Court: Diaz de la Portilla not in contempt in divorce and dog dispute

From the News Service of Florida:

In a dispute that stemmed from what judges called a "spat" over family dogs in a divorce, a state appeals court Monday said former state lawmaker Alex Diaz de la Portilla should not be held in criminal contempt in the long-running case.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal issued a 16-page ruling in the case, which involved Diaz de la Portilla's failure to turn over one of two dogs in 2011 to his now-former wife, Claudia Davant. The former lawmaker was held in criminal contempt for failing to appear at court proceedings. But the appeals court found that a "key missing element" in the case was whether Diaz de la Portilla was notified that he was required to attend court proceedings but failed to do so without an excuse.

"Here, no question exists that Diaz de la Portilla had been ordered to appear in the trial court; but nothing shows that he was notified personally of the trial court’s order and, if so, his reasons for not appearing, which creates a due process problem,'' said the appeals-court ruling, written by Judge Scott Makar and joined by judges Brad Thomas and Stephanie Ray.

Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican, served in the Senate from 2000 to 2010, after six years in the House. His former wife is a longtime lobbyist. The appeals court ruling said the former spouse reached a settlement agreement in December 2011 that included Diaz de la Portilla receiving both dogs.