State, Dept. of Citrus v. Griffin, 75-171

Decision Date05 May 1976
Docket NumberNo. 75-171,75-171
Citation332 So.2d 54
PartiesSTATE of Florida, DEPARTMENT OF CITRUS, Appellant, v. C. V. GRIFFIN, Sr., and C. V. Griffin Groves, a Florida Corporation, etc., et al., Appellees.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Monterey Campbell, of Campbell, Dunlap, Coward & Blakeman, Bartow, for appellant.

Charles E. Davis and Stephen P. Kanar, of Fishback, Davis, Dominick & Simonet, Orlando, for appellees.

Raymer F. Maguire, Jr., of Maguire, Voorhis & Wells, Orlando, for amicus curiae.

McNULTY, Chief Judge.

This case involves an award of attorney's fees in the amount of $333,000 to counsel for plaintiffs-appellees in a class action under the rationale of Tenney v. City of Miami Beach; 1 that is to say, attorney's fees allegedly due for services rendered to the benefit of members of the class and payable out of a fund allegedly preserved as a result of such services. We reverse.

The fees were awarded in a suit against appellant Department of Citrus challenging the Orange Stabilization Act, § 601.154, F.S.1967, and a 'marketing order' promulgated thereunder. The act empowers the Department of Citrus, subject to referendum among citrus growers and processors, to issue marketing orders to establish and maintain orderly marketing of the orange crop. Pursuant to the act the Florida Department of Citrus, then called the Florida Citrus Commission, promulgated marketing order 105--3.01 in 1968 scheduled to become effective on February 1, 1969. The order set up an administrative committee for the purpose of preparing and operating programs aimed at securing a part of the federal school lunch program market. The committee was empowered, subject to the concurrence of the commission, to 'underwrite or subsidize the development of expansion of packaging, dispensing, distributing and marketing techniques and materials best suited to the sale or distribution' of Florida orange products to schools for use by all grade levels. The committee was similarly empowered to underwrite or subsidize the development or expansion of the sale of surplus juices for distribution to schools. These activities were to be funded through an assessment or 'tax' of five cents per box of oranges delivered into primary channels of trade. A referendum was held and the order was approved overwhelmingly by the growers and processors affected by the order.

Appellees, producers of citrus who were subject as a class to the tax, then filed an action in December 1968 against the Citrus Commission to contest the constitutionality of the tax, to enjoin the collection of the tax, to enjoin the operation of the order and to refund to the taxpayers the funds collected. They also contended that the composition of the Citrus Commission was illegal.

On June 27, 1969, the trial court entered a summary judgment holding the suit to be a proper class action, declaring the Orange Stabilization Act unconstitutional on grounds of unlawful delegation of legislative power and holding the marketing order invalid. 2 The court then entered a stay order providing that the five cent tax be collected but not spent while the matter was on appeal to the Supreme Court. (These funds, together with accrued interest, now amount to approximately sixteen to seventeen million dollars.)

The ensuing direct appeal to the Supreme Court resulted in a reversal of the trial court on the constitutionality question. 3 That court concluded its opinion as follows:

'As was pointed out earlier in this opinion, a multitude of issues were raised in the pleadings when appellees filed suit for declaratory judgment below. The trial court reserved judgment on many of these issues since the case was disposed of on constitutional grounds.

Our opinion today is, therefore, limited to the issues raised on appeal.

'The judgment appealed from is hereby reversed, and this cause is remanded for further treatment consistent with this opinion.'

On remand the matter was set for trial on April 27, 1971, but was delayed by two unsuccessful interlocutory appeals taken by the Citrus Commission on discovery matters. 4 The stay order entered by the trial court remained in effect all the while.

Meanwhile, the Citrus Commission proposed an amendment to the controversial marketing order on May 19, 1972. Following another successful referendum the amended order became effective on August 1, 1972. The amended order did not provide for any additional assessments, but neither did it provide that the money collected under the old marketing order be returned to the growers.

Against this new order, on October 26, 1972 plaintiffs filed a 'Complaint Re Amended Order 105--3.01,' alleging in part:

'Since most of the major premises upon which the (original) Order was adopted have turned out to be false and the Order unworkable, the Defendant has abandoned the purposes thereof and has arbitrarily and capriciously adopted the 'New Order' for the purpose of attempting to avoid the restoration of the tax funds to the taxpayers, although the purpose of the Order pursuant to which the taxes were collected has wholly failed, and the New Order seeks to delegate to the defendant entirely different usages of the funds from the purposes for which the funds were collected.

'. . . The purpose of the New Order is not to remove surplus juice from the primary market to raise prices but rather to fix maximum prices by spending grower tax money to subsidize canners to reduce prices. Such price fixing is directly in violation of Florida Statute 601.154(19) and furthermore, the new purpose is exactly the opposite of the purpose for which the growers were taxed . . . This defeats the interests of the grower and constitutes the use of public funds to benefit certain private interests.'

They thereupon prayed that the new order be declared unconstitutional, illegal and void.

Yet, paradoxically, appellees now contend here that the situation under the new order is far superior to what it was previously, and that thrust of their argument on appeal is that the adoption of the new order and the preservation of the sixteen million dollar fund was a 'victory' and Was of great benefit to the orange growers and producers of this state. This necessarily must be their position, of course, if they claim the awarded fees for rendering 'beneficial services'; but the logic is evasive.

In any case, subsequent events in this lawsuit were concluded by the trial court as follows:

'Finally, it appeared to this Court that there was a reasonable probability of working out a school marketing program then under study by the Defendant and other citrus organizations, which would not be objectionable, and that developing the necessary programs unhampered by the pendence of this lawsuit would be in the best interest of the parties and of the citrus industry generally. This was brought to the attention of the parties' counsel and on June 18, 1973, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Voluntary Dismissal. On June 19, 1973, this Court entered its Order dismissing the case without prejudice and retaining jurisdiction of Plaintiffs' Motion for Payment of Attorneys' Fees.'

Testimony was thereafter taken on plaintiffs-appellees' motion for attorney's fees and the trial court held that the services of appellees' attorney had resulted in a benefit to the plaintiff class. He then awarded the fees here appealed. The Citrus Commission moved for rehearing and, when the rehearing was denied, filed its notice of appeal within thirty days from the order denying rehearing but more than thirty days from the order awarding the fees. Appellees filed a cross-assignment of error, alleging insufficiency of the award, and attack the timeliness of appellant's appeal.

Considering first the question of timeliness of this appeal, it is argued by appellees that since the order awarding attorney's fees was an interlocutory order following a final judgment within the purview of Rule 4.2(a), F.A.R., and considering that the Citrus Commission's motion for rehearing was unauthorized by the rules, the time for taking the appeal was not stayed. The false premise here is that the order under review was an interlocutory one.

To begin with, we point out the order of dismissal entered on June 19, 1973 aforesaid was without prejudice. And we are aware that there is a line of authority that suggests an award of attorney's fees following such a voluntary dismissal without prejudice is a nonfinal judgment reviewable only by certiorari (or, in a case formerly cognizable in equity, by interlocutory appeal pursuant to 4.2, F.A.R.). 5 If this be so, we would agree that a motion for rehearing would not stay the appeal time. But we are of the view that this authority pertains only to matters ordinarily taxable as costs and we think the situation is far different when it applies to an award of attorney's fees in a class action under the authority of Tenney, supra. We have located no Florida authority precisely on point, but the rule repeatedly announced by the United States Supreme Court since 1882 is that such an award supports a full appeal on its own merits even in the absence of a final judgment in the case in chief. 6 While not bound, of course, by these decisions on matters of federal procedure we give them great persuasive weight, especially since two of these cases are the very authority relied upon in Tenney for establishing the right to recover attorney's fees in Florida in a successful class action. Accordingly, we hold first that an award of attorney's fees following the termination of a class action is a final matter and sufficiently substantive of itself to support a full appeal. 7

We turn now to the merits of the case.

The right to an award of attorney's fees in a successful class action, where a party has established the claim of the members of the class to a common fund, has been established in both Florida 8 as well as in the Federal system. 9...

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  • Truman J. Costello, P.A. v. City of Cape Coral
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • March 5, 1997
    ...fund doctrine. See Fidelity & Casualty Co. of New York v. O'Shea, 397 So.2d 1196 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981); and State, Dep't of Citrus v. Griffin, 332 So.2d 54 (Fla. 2d DCA 1976). Although each of these cases determined that payment of attorney's fees was not appropriate, they do recognize the The......
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    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • February 27, 1986
    ...State of Florida D.O.T., 425 So.2d 671 (Fla. 2d DCA 1983); Saul v. Basse, 399 So.2d 130 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981); State Department of Citrus v. Griffin, 332 So.2d 54 (Fla. 2d DCA 1976); Kucera v. Kucera, 330 So.2d 36 (Fla. 4th DCA 1975). They are not technically "non-final" orders, since all judi......
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    • February 2, 1983
    ...a full appeal and subject to a motion for rehearing. Saul v. Basse, 399 So.2d 130 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981); State, Dept. of Citrus v. Griffin, 332 So.2d 54 (Fla. 2d DCA 1976); Kucera v. Kucera, 330 So.2d 36 (Fla. 4th DCA 1975). We see no logical distinction between attorneys' fees and costs in th......
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