With Florida’s 2023 legislative session in the rearview mirror, Gov. Ron DeSantis remains under a microscope with pundits and strategists hoping to identify potential presidential front-runners.
DeSantis is no stranger to the spotlight or strong stances. This year, he worked with Florida’s legislative leaders to prioritize landmark legal reform legislation that could rebalance the state’s legal system for years to come.
However, it wasn’t long ago that Florida was the No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” in the country. When DeSantis took office, though, he sought to rid the state of this ignominious status.
His appointments to the state supreme court with judges who interpret the law as written — rather than attempting to legislate from the bench — were a dramatic improvement.
While the current state supreme court greatly improved the civil justice system in Florida, problems persisted that only the legislature could address. And this year, they’ve done just that.
The year’s legal reform encompassed several key bills. Chief among these is “transparency in damages,” ensuring juries and judges have access to all relevant information when making decisions about awarding damages in civil lawsuits. It allows all parties to understand the actual cost of treating injured individuals and prevents abuse by those seeking excessive or unwarranted payouts.
Additional reforms include provisions to regulate misleading legal services advertisements related to pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices and to amend the timeline for when a construction defect lawsuit may be filed. These reforms will rein in abusive tactics from lawyers while also ensuring that legitimate claims are heard and resolved quickly.
During a recent visit to Tallahassee, I witnessed how misinformation was used to mislead people about these reforms. It was evident that a handful of entrepreneurial trial lawyers were doing all they could to maintain the status quo, which allows for excess and abuse.
Legal reform opponents resorted to using people as props, distorted their stories to fit a predetermined narrative, and spread distortion and lies to further the lawyer’s agenda. As financial beneficiaries of the current system, though, it’s no wonder they fought tooth and nail to keep the status quo in place.
However, these are the tactics we’ve come to expect from the trial bar and are straight out of the trial lawyer playbook, which, for years, made it incredibly difficult to pass meaningful legal reform measures.
For too long, our legal system has been plagued by frivolous lawsuits and excessive damages. This has not only burdened businesses and individuals with unnecessary costs but has hindered economic growth and innovation.
But thanks to these reforms, Florida is a more attractive place to do business and the state’s legal system is more balanced. Businesses will be able to invest with greater confidence, and consumers will have greater access to affordable products and services.
This is not just good news for Florida; it’s a model for other states. By taking proactive steps to reform their legal systems, other states can follow Florida’s lead to attract businesses and spur economic growth while also protecting consumers and ensuring that our legal system is fair and efficient.
These strong but fair laws will solidify Florida as a model of a forward-looking state with a judicial system that is transparent, fair and accountable for all.
We are pleased to recognize Florida for all these improvements as a Judicial Hellholes “Point of Light,” a shining example and testament to the hard work of the governor and state lawmakers.
And to those jurisdictions still ranked as Judicial Hellholes, we recommend taking a closer look at Florida. It has paved the way and shown what it takes to go from being the worst Judicial Hellhole in the country to a leader on legal reform.