Florida Senate - 2021                                    SB 1874
       By Senator Burgess
       20-01043C-21                                          20211874__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to civil proceedings in matters
    3         certified as matters of great governmental concern by
    4         the Governor and Cabinet; creating s. 16.65, F.S.;
    5         defining terms; authorizing the Attorney General to
    6         request that the Governor and Cabinet certify certain
    7         matters as matters of great governmental concern;
    8         declaring that the Attorney General has sole authority
    9         to file certain civil proceedings upon the Governor
   10         and Cabinet making such certification; authorizing the
   11         Attorney General to investigate a matter before and
   12         after it is certified as a matter of great
   13         governmental concern; requiring specified public
   14         officers and employees to provide assistance and
   15         information regarding the matter upon request of the
   16         Attorney General; authorizing the Attorney General to
   17         institute or intervene on behalf of governmental
   18         entities in legal matters covered by the certification
   19         in state or federal courts; authorizing the Attorney
   20         General to consolidate, dismiss, release, settle, or
   21         take any such action that he or she believes to be in
   22         the public interest; providing for the abatement or a
   23         stay of proceedings in pending matters affected by the
   24         certification; providing for the tolling of any
   25         applicable statute of limitations during the
   26         certification, up to a specified maximum period of
   27         time; requiring governmental entities to inform the
   28         Attorney General of any pending proceedings covered by
   29         the certification; providing that any settlement or
   30         other resolution of such proceedings made after a
   31         certification by the Governor and Cabinet is void if
   32         such action is taken without the consent of the
   33         Attorney General; providing for the award of
   34         reasonable attorney fees to the legal counsel of a
   35         governmental entity; providing factors that a court
   36         may consider in calculating the amount of attorney
   37         fees to be awarded; providing construction and
   38         applicability; providing an effective date.
   40         WHEREAS, there have been several events resulting in
   41  extensive litigation by multiple governmental entities in this
   42  state which arose from the same facts, circumstances, or
   43  conduct, or from similar causes of action, and
   44         WHEREAS, litigation being pursued simultaneously by
   45  multiple governmental entities of varying types is extremely
   46  difficult to resolve in a timely and expeditious fashion, and
   47         WHEREAS, the Legislature finds that, in the interest of
   48  maximizing recoveries and minimizing costs, it is in the best
   49  interest of the State of Florida that a single official
   50  represent all governmental entities that are party to a civil
   51  proceeding involving matters certified to be of great
   52  governmental concern, and
   53         WHEREAS, the Attorney General is the state’s chief legal
   54  officer, and, consistent with the common law powers of the
   55  office, the Attorney General should be responsible for the
   56  prosecution, management, and coordination of any civil
   57  proceedings brought by governmental entities in such matters,
   58  and
   59         WHEREAS, clarifying and codifying certain common law powers
   60  of the Attorney General will help to facilitate the prosecution
   61  and resolution of civil proceedings in such matters, and
   62         WHEREAS, the failure to have a single official responsible
   63  in litigation involving such matters undermines fairness and
   64  efficiency in the resolution of legal disputes, risks
   65  inconsistent or incongruent results, delays recovery, and
   66  undermines the ability of governmental entities to respond to
   67  such matters, NOW, THEREFORE,
   69  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   71         Section 1. Section 16.65, Florida Statutes, is created to
   72  read:
   73         16.65 Matters certified to be of great governmental
   74  concern.—
   75         (1) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:
   76         (a) “Governmental entity” means an agency or authority of
   77  any county, municipality, or other political subdivision.
   78         (b)Matter of great governmental concern” means any fact,
   79  circumstance, or conduct that has caused substantial economic
   80  loss or other similar harm to governmental entities in five or
   81  more counties in this state and has been certified as such by a
   82  majority vote of the Governor and Cabinet.
   83         (2) AUTHORITY.—
   84         (a) The Attorney General may request that the Governor and
   85  Cabinet certify a matter to be a matter of great governmental
   86  concern. Upon such a certification, the Attorney General has the
   87  sole authority to file a civil proceeding on behalf of the
   88  affected governmental entities in this state unless the Governor
   89  and Cabinet rescind the certification by a majority vote.
   90         (b)Before and after the Governor and Cabinet certify any
   91  matter to be a matter of great governmental concern, the
   92  Attorney General may investigate any such matter. In any
   93  investigation and in any civil proceeding commenced pursuant to
   94  this section, all public officers and their deputies,
   95  assistants, clerks, subordinates, or employees, in their
   96  official capacity, shall render and furnish assistance and all
   97  information available relating to the matter upon the request of
   98  the Attorney General.
   99         (c)The Attorney General may institute or intervene in
  100  civil proceedings, including any nonfinal appeals, in state or
  101  federal courts which involve matters of great governmental
  102  concern to seek any relief afforded at law or in equity, under
  103  state or federal law, on behalf of the affected governmental
  104  entities.
  105         (d)For any civil proceeding in state or federal court
  106  involving a matter of great governmental concern, the Attorney
  107  General may consolidate, dismiss, release, settle, or take any
  108  such action that he or she believes to be in the public
  109  interest.
  110         (e)The certification of a matter as a matter of great
  111  governmental concern abates or stays any civil proceeding in
  112  state or federal court filed by a governmental entity until the
  113  Attorney General takes action in such proceeding.
  114         (f)Any statute of limitations imposed under the laws of
  115  this state which affects a claim by a governmental entity is
  116  tolled for the pendency of a certification, up to a maximum of 1
  117  year.
  118         (g)Upon learning of a certification, all governmental
  119  entities that are a party to any affected civil proceeding must
  120  provide notice to the Attorney General of the existence of any
  121  such civil proceeding, including the style of the action, the
  122  case number, and the court where such proceeding is pending. Any
  123  settlement or other resolution of the civil proceeding by a
  124  governmental entity which occurs after an applicable
  125  certification is made by the Governor and Cabinet is void if
  126  made without the consent of the Attorney General.
  127         (3) ATTORNEY FEES.—
  128         (a) If a governmental entity retains legal counsel for a
  129  civil proceeding before the matter that is a subject of that
  130  proceeding is certified as a matter of great governmental
  131  concern, the governmental entity or its legal counsel may apply
  132  to the court having jurisdiction where the civil proceeding is
  133  being prosecuted by the Attorney General to obtain from any
  134  recovery secured by the Attorney General reasonable attorney
  135  fees and costs incurred in connection with such representation
  136  up to the time the certification was made.
  137         (b)In calculating the amount of any reasonable attorney
  138  fees, the court may consider all of the following factors:
  139         1. The time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty
  140  of the question involved, and the skill requisite to perform the
  141  legal services properly;
  142         2. The likelihood that the acceptance of the particular
  143  employment will preclude other employment by the attorney;
  144         3. The fee customarily charged in the locality for similar
  145  legal services;
  146         4. The relief sought and the relief obtained;
  147         5. The time limitations imposed by the client or by the
  148  circumstances;
  149         6. The nature and length of the professional relationship
  150  with the client;
  151         7. The experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or
  152  lawyers performing the services; and
  153         8. Whether the fee is fixed or contingent.
  154         Section 2. This act is intended to codify and clarify some
  155  of the common law authority of the Attorney General and to
  156  create a process and procedure for exercising the Attorney
  157  General’s authority. This act applies to cases pending on or
  158  after the effective date of this act.
  159         Section 3. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.