State ex rel. Watson v. Lee

Decision Date08 May 1942
Citation150 Fla. 496,8 So.2d 19
PartiesSTATE ex rel. WATSON, Atty. Gen., v. LEE, Comptroller.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

J. Tom Watson, Atty. Gen., and Lawrence A. Truett, Fred M. Burns, and Lewis W. Petteway, Asst. Attys. Gen., for plaintiff.

Lewis H Tribble, Keen & Allen, and Wm. p. Allen, all of Tallahassee, for defendant.


The Attorney General of Florida has filed in this court a 'civil Information' in which it is in effect alleged that the State Comptroller has entered into a contract with a named law firm, and treated as a contract or agreement between the Comptroller of the State of Florida and said law firm, for stated services to the State in the collection of intangible taxes prior to 1941 or prior years, which taxes should have been but were not assessed or collected under the statutes of the State, and that such contract is illegal for stated reasons. The pleading concludes as follows:

'The Attorney General of the State of Florida, now having given the court to understand and be informed regarding the matters affecting the sovereign State of Florida, prays that the Court will issue such rules, orders or decrees as to it may seem meet and proper.'

A separate motion filed 'moves the Court for a rule or order requiring the defendant, J. M. Lee, as Comptroller of the State of Florida to be and appear before this Honorable Court upon a short day to be fixed therein and to show to this Honorable Court by virtue of what law or authority of law that he, the said defendant, J. M. Lee, as Comptroller of the State of Florida entered into the purported contract attached to the civil information heretofore filed in this cause as Exhibit B thereof.'

The essential question to be adjudicated is whether the quoted motion should be granted or denied.

The constitution of the State and not a common law prerogative or other writ confers jurisdiction upon the Supreme Court of Florida. Judicial writs when duly authorized and issued are the means by which the already conferred jurisdiction of the court may be applied to particular cases. Unless the constitution confers jurisdiction on the Supreme Court, the issue of judicial writ by the court does not confer jurisdiction upon the court. Where the court has jurisdiction, the issuance by it of a judicial writ attaches the existing conferred jurisdiction of the court to a particular case. The express power given by the constitution of Florida to the Supreme Court to issue stated writs, by implication and intendment also confers upon the Supreme Court jurisdiction of justiciable matters to which such specifically designated writs any lawfully apply. The jurisdiction is conferred by the intendments of the constitution in authorizing the issuance of the specified writs, and not by the writs issued which only attach the constitutional jurisdiction of the court to the case in which the writ is issued.

The constitution of Florida provides that:

'All courts in this State shall be open, so that every person for any injury done him in his lands, goods, person or reputation shall have remedy, by due course of law, and right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.' Sec. 4, Declaration of Rights.

Section 5, Article V, of the Constitution of 1885, differing from prior organic provisions, confers and defines the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and confers no original jurisdiction upon the Supreme Court, except such as may be exercised through the express power conferred 'to issue writs of mandamus certiorari, prohibition, quo warranto, habeas corpus, and also all writs necessary or proper to the complete exercise of its jurisdiction.' The express power granted to this court to issue 'all writs necessary or proper to the complete exercise of its jurisdiction' has reference...

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