Apologies for the lack of news on the stadium front, but, well… it’s been fairly quiet.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen was re-elected Tuesday, but no word yet on when she intends to rule on the two remaining counts in auto dealer Norman Braman’s lawsuit targeting the financing for $3 billion in Miami projects, including the $515 million ballpark.
As you may recall when the trial wrapped up last month, Cohen promised to rule on whether the ballpark serves a “paramount public purpose” – meaning public dollars can be used to build it -- within 10 days of receiving additional information. That deadline came and went. Cohen was out of the office and campaigning for parts of August.
With her re-election wrapped up, she could rule anytime, but some speculate she may wait to rule at the same time on both the public purpose count and the count on whether a portion of the $3 billion in financing must go to a public vote. Cohen has been waiting for a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court in two similar cases before making her decision on the referendum count.
She wrote to Florida’s high court earlier this month asking when it might rule on the two cases. An Aug. 21 response from Clerk of the Court, Thomas D. Hall, was no more enlightening. Hall’s letter reads in part: “please be advised that the above styled cases are still pending before this Court and therefore the information you request cannot be released.”
Cohen did set her own Sept. 15 deadline to rule on the referendum count, hoping the Florida Supreme Court will rule by then.
Meanwhile the makeup of the court is changing. Gov. Charlie Crist named 2nd District Court of Appeal Judge Charles Canady to fill a vacancy that will be left by Justice Raoul Cantero, who resigned effective Sept. 6. Crist will also need to fill a second vacancy that will occur in October. As a result, it’s unclear if the court will rule on the two cases before its membership changes and how a shift in makeup might affect the rulings.
The public purpose count is more important to the Marlins, Miami and Miami-Dade County because it could impair the whole financing plan if Cohen rules the stadium should not receive public financing. If Cohen rules a referendum is required for some of the financing, the team, city and county do not believe the vote would include the stadium because it does not rely on property taxes. Braman and his lawyers disagree.
The Marlins have been hoping to break ground for a ballpark at the site of the former Orange Bowl by year's end in order to open by 2011 -- a date that is becoming increasingly unlikely.