final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower
Tribunal No. 17-26678, Thomas J. Rebull, Judge.
LLP, Juan-Carlos "J.C." Planas and Matthew S.
Sarelson, for appellant.
Victoria Méndez, City Attorney and Forrest L. Andrews,
Assistant City Attorney; Kuehne Davis Law, P.A., Benedict P.
Kuehne and Michael T. Davis; Tania Cruz, P.A. and Tania Cruz
Gimenez; Greenspoon Marder, P.A. and Joseph S. Geller (Fort
Lauderdale); Coffey Burlington and Kendall Coffey, for
Before, ROTHENBERG, C.J., and SCALES and LUCK, JJ.
general rule, Florida courts have no inherent power to
determine an election contest after a candidate has been
elected. The legislature created a narrow exception to the
no-inherent-power rule for post-election challenges where the
successful candidate is ineligible for the nomination or
office in dispute. The issue in this case is whether the
requirement in the Miami city charter that a city commission
candidate reside in the district at least one year before the
qualifying date is an eligibility requirement, and therefore,
within the narrow exception created by the legislature.
Because we conclude that it is not, the courts have no
inherent power to determine this post-election contest based
on Miami's one-year-residency requirement for city
commission candidates, and the case was properly dismissed by
the trial court.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
November 21, 2017, Joe Carollo won a run-off election against
Alfonso "Alfie" Leon for the district three seat on
the Miami city commission. The results were certified on
November 27, and eight days later, Leon filed an emergency
amended verified complaint contesting the election under
Florida Statutes section 102.168(3)(b).
complaint alleged that Miami city charter section 4(c)
required commission candidates to reside in the district at
least one year prior to qualifying for election. Carollo,
Leon's complaint alleged, did not reside in district
three within one year of the September 23, 2017 qualifying
deadline for the commission election. Leon sought a judgment
overturning the election because Carollo was ineligible to
serve as the district three commissioner, and an order to
rescind the certification of Carollo as the winner of the
November 21 election.
trial court held a four-day bench trial in January 2018. At
the end of it, and after post-trial briefing, the trial court
dismissed the lawsuit as an unauthorized and improper
post-election challenge under section 102.68(3)(b) because
the one-year-residency requirement was not an eligibility
requirement to hold office. The trial court also concluded,
on the merits, that Carollo had proven he resided in district
three at least one year before qualifying for election.
appeals both rulings. We do not address the merits of
Leon's residency challenge because we agree with the
trial court that the lawsuit was due to be dismissed as an
unauthorized post-election challenge to Carollo's
qualifications to run for office.
at common law there was no right to a post-election
challenge, the legislature added section 102.168(3)(b) to
allow a post-election challenge based on the
"[i]neligibility of the successful candidate for
nomination or office in dispute." §
102.168(3)(b), Fla. Stat. (2017); see also Burns v.
Tondreau, 139 So.3d 481, 485 (Fla. 3d DCA 2014)
("Because 'there is no common law right to contest
elections, any statutory grant must necessarily be construed
to grant only such rights as are explicitly set out. . . . In
1999, the Florida Legislature amended section 102.168 to
allow for post-election challenges based on the successful
candidate's ineligibility for the nomination or office in
dispute." (quoting McPherson v. Flynn, 397
So.2d 665, 668 (Fla. 1981))). In Burns, we explained
what section 102.168(3)(b) means by a successful
candidate's "ineligibility" for office.
102.168(3)(b) ineligibility, we concluded in Burns,
refers to "constitutional ineligibility" -
"the constitutional requirement for holding the office
sought." Burns, 139 So.3d at 484. Section
102.168(3)(b) allows a post-election challenge to "a
candidate's constitutional eligibility to hold
office." Id. For municipal candidates, like the
Miami district three commissioner, we look to the city's
constitution - its charter - for the eligibility requirements
to hold office. See id. ("[T]he City is a
municipality, and the paramount law of a municipality is its
charter . . . . [Thus], the City's Charter establishes a
person's eligibility to serve as mayor." (quotation