by Nancy Kinnally
Florida Legal Services received the 2012 Steven M. Goldstein Award for Excellence for its successful challenge to Fla. Gov. Rick Scott’s suspension of rule making by state agencies.
When Scott issued his first executive order suspending rulemaking by state agencies, FLS sought to protect the autonomy of state agencies as set out in the Administrative Procedures Act and to safeguard the Act’s integrity as a means to bring about systemic change in public assistance programs. In Whiley v. Scott, FLS successfully petitioned the Florida Supreme Court on behalf of a blind woman who wanted to recertify for Food Stamps using an abbreviated application designed to accommodate her disability. Implementation of the abbreviated form had been put on hold due to Scott’s executive order.
“The Goldstein award is named for someone who spent much of his career in legal services to the poor. I have no doubt that, were Steve still alive, he would be overjoyed to see the wonderful advocates at Florida Legal Services honored for their work on behalf of a remarkable woman, Ms. Whiley, whose spirit has not been crushed by the burdens she bears,” said Sandy D’Alemberte, who, along with his wife and law partner Patsy Palmer, served as pro bono counsel on the case.
In Wiley, the Florida Supreme Court held that the governor lacked the power to suspend rulemaking and reinstated the Administrative Procedures Act as the arbiter of agency rulemaking. FLS staff attorneys Cindy Huddleston, Kathy Grunewald, Valory Greenfield and Anne Swerlick worked on the petition.
“The APA is an integral tool that legal services advocates use daily in their practice to force systemic change in policy and compel equal protection and due process in individual cases,” wrote the FLS staff attorneys in their award application.
The Goldstein Award is provided biennially by the Foundation in recognition of the late Steven M. Goldstein’s commitment and contributions to high-quality impact representation of the poor. It is meant to encourage and support individual staff and legal aid program pursuit of such representation. A grant of $25,000 is awarded to the program whose staff work is being recognized, to be utilized for general support in providing legal assistance to the poor. A $3,000 training scholarship is also awarded for the benefit of the individual staff who worked on the winning project.
Runners-Up in 2012 were as follows:
First Runner-Up: Southern Legal Counsel Inc.
Statewide Litigation to Establish a Program to Transition Medicaid Recipients in Nursing Homes into the Community
$10,000 plus $1,000 training scholarship
Second Runners-Up (tie):
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida Inc.
Challenge to Sanford Housing Authority’s Proposed Demolition of Affordable Public Housing
Florida Justice Institute Inc. and Legal Services of Greater Miami Inc.
Challenge to Public Housing Authority’s Illegal Denial of Section 8 Housing Assistance
$2,500 each plus $500 training scholarship