Sheriff Asks Court to 'Quash' Order | Judge Ordered Knight to Reinstate Deputies at Non-Court Facilities

By Williams, Lee | Sarasota Herald Tribune, March 14, 2017 | Go to article overview

Sheriff Asks Court to 'Quash' Order | Judge Ordered Knight to Reinstate Deputies at Non-Court Facilities


Williams, Lee, Sarasota Herald Tribune


LAW ENFORCEMENT, COURTS

SARASOTA -- In a voluminous 70-page motion, Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight has asked the Florida Second District Court of Appeals to "quash all unlawful portions" of an administrative order he received from Chief Judge Charles Williams.

The petition for writ of certiorari, which was served on Williams last week, is the latest round of an ongoing constitutional feud between

the executive branch -- in this case, Sheriff Knight -- and the judiciary -- represented by Chief Judge Williams.

At issue is the sheriff's decision to pull his deputies from security screening stations at non-courtroom facilities operated by the court -- a move recommended by the sheriff's legal advisers, who said the practice could expose deputies to severe sanctions under Florida's preemption statute, which allows only the Florida Legislature to regulate firearms.

Judge Williams ordered the sheriff to return the deputies to the screening stations and imposed a deadline. Knight refused to comply, and in his response told the chief judge that he would seek an opinion from the appellate court.

Last week, rather than taking any action for the sheriff's refusal to the order, Williams said through a spokesman that he "respects the right of the sheriff to take this action and will let this matter take its proper legal course."

In the petition, Knight's legal team argues that the judge's order violates "the doctrine of separation of powers because it attempts to regulate how the Petitioner (Sheriff Knight) performs discretionary executive functions outside of the courtroom."

The Sheriff further argues that providing security beyond what is required by law is "discretionary," and that ordering the sheriff to provide "discretionary executive functions" in court-operated buildings where no court occurs is "not authorized by law and violates the doctrine of separation of powers."

Chief Judge Williams declined to comment for this story.

Court spokesman Dennis Menendez cited the "Canon of the Code of Judicial Conduct," which he said prevents Williams "from commenting on the pending Writ of Certiorari."

"As stated earlier, the 12th Circuit respects the right of the Sheriff to seek legal redress on this matter and we will allow the legal process to continue on its proper legal course," Menendez said in an email. "Judge Williams will wait for the Appellate Court's decision and issue an appropriate response at that time."

Constitutional officer

The sheriff's motion chronicles how the impasse began when Florida Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, tried to enter the "Sarasota Historic Courthouse" on Main Street with a concealed weapon. That structure contains the Clerk of Court's office, a cafe and a historic courtroom "that has not been used for court purposes whatsoever for several years," the petition states.

Private security guards and a sheriff's deputy denied Steube access. He later complained to Knight in an email an hour after the encounter. "I informed the security guard that I had a concealed carry permit and was licensed to carry," Steube wrote. "The agent said that it was a government building and I was not permitted to carry weapons."

Citing Florida Statute 790.06, Steube explained to the guard and deputy that "government buildings" are not considered "gun free zones" according to the law. …

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