Ten big legal issues in Florida to watch in 2024

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Welcome to Florida sign
Welcome to Florida sign along U.S. Route 319 at the Florida/Georgia state line. By fotoguy22 via iStock for WMNF News.

By Jim Saunders ©2023 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — State and federal courts in 2024 are expected to buzz with major Florida cases. Here are 10 legal issues to watch in the new year.

ABORTION

The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in September in a challenge to a 2022 state law that prevented abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. If the court upholds the law, it also could clear the way for a six-week abortion limit passed in 2023. Meanwhile, justices could decide whether a proposed abortion-rights constitutional amendment will go on the 2024 ballot. Attorney General Ashley Moody is urging the court to reject the proposal.

DISNEY

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District are battling in state and federal courts, including over allegations that the state unconstitutionally retaliated against Disney because of the company’s opposition to a controversial 2022 education law. A federal judge heard arguments this month in the retaliation case, while a separate lawsuit is pending in Orange County circuit court.

FSU ATHLETICS

In a closely watched case in college athletics, Florida State University last week filed a lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court against the Atlantic Coast Conference. Florida State, which has been a member of the ACC for more than three decades, alleged the conference has “persistently undermined its members’ revenue opportunities.” The case focuses on a media rights deal and on the steep costs for leaving the conference.

GAMBLING

The Florida Supreme Court is considering a challenge to a gambling deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe that allowed the tribe to offer online sports betting statewide. Two pari-mutuel companies contend the deal violates a 2018 state constitutional amendment that restricted casino gambling. Meanwhile, the companies could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a separate attempt to block sports betting under federal law.

GUNS

Nearly six years after Florida lawmakers passed a measure to prevent sales of rifles and other long guns to people under age 21, a Second Amendment challenge to the law is pending at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The full appeals court said in July it would hear the case, after a three-judge panel upheld the age restriction. But the case has been effectively on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a Texas case about gun restrictions.

MARIJUANA

The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in November about whether it should clear the way for a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow recreational use of marijuana. Supporters of the proposal have submitted enough petition signatures to get on the 2024 ballot but need Supreme Court approval of the proposed ballot wording. Attorney General Ashley Moody has argued the court should reject the proposal.

NURSING HOME KIDS

A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in January in a decade-long battle between Florida and the U.S. Department of Justice about children with complex medical needs receiving care in nursing homes. A federal district judge sided with the Justice Department and ordered Florida’s Medicaid program to take increased steps to help children live with their families or in their communities.

REDISTRICTING

With the 2024 elections nearing, the Florida Supreme Court and a federal court panel are considering separate challenges by voting-rights groups to a congressional redistricting plan that DeSantis pushed through the Legislature in 2022. The cases focus on the overhaul of a North Florida district that in the past elected Black Democrat Al Lawson. The state’s 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the plan in one of the cases.

SOCIAL MEDIA

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up a First Amendment fight about a 2021 Florida law that placed restrictions on major social media companies. Tech-industry groups challenged the law, which passed after Twitter, now known as X, and Facebook blocked former President Donald Trump from their platforms. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld most of a district judge’s preliminary injunction against the law.

TRANSGENDER LAWS

After Florida passed laws and rules aimed at transgender people, a series of legal challenges are playing out in federal courts. They include cases about the state blocking Medicaid coverage for transgender people seeking hormone therapy and puberty blockers; the state barring such treatments for minors and placing restrictions on treatments for adults; and a law designed to prevent children from attending drag shows.

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