Gov. DeSantis can weigh in on beach closure appeal

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference in Tallahassee.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference in Tallahassee. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis will be able to weigh in about whether a Northwest Florida attorney should face sanctions for filing an appeal in a lawsuit aimed at closing beaches during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday issued an order allowing DeSantis to reply to arguments by Santa Rosa Beach attorney Daniel Uhlfelder, who contends that his appeal was not frivolous or filed in bad faith.

Uhlfelder filed the lawsuit this spring to try to force DeSantis to close beaches statewide to prevent the spread of the disease.

Leon County Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll in April ruled against Uhlfelder, spurring an appeal. But a panel of the Tallahassee-based appeals court last month rejected the case and suggested that the appeal and other documents filed by Uhlfelder “appear to be frivolous and/or filed in bad faith.” The court also ordered Uhlfelder to “show cause” why he and his lawyers should not face sanctions, such as paying attorney fees and costs.

In a 19-page response last Friday, Uhlfelder and lawyers Gautier Kitchen and Marie Mattox cited comments that Carroll made in April when he ruled against Uhlfelder. For example, the response quoted Carroll as saying that Uhlfelder “has an understandable concern that he has raised here, and I believe he has pursued this matter in good faith and is seeking what he believes to be an appropriate response to the COVID crisis.”