State v. Spencer

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Citation751 So.2d 47
Docket NumberNo. 93,795.,93,795.
PartiesSTATE of Florida, Petitioner, v. Randy Lavern SPENCER, Respondent.
Decision Date23 September 1999

Robert A. Butterworth, Attorney General, James W. Rogers, Tallahassee Bureau Chief, Criminal Appeals, and Trisha E. Meggs, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, for petitioner.

Randy Lavern Spencer, Jasper, Florida, Respondent, pro se.

PARIENTE, J.

We have for review the opinion in Spencer v. State, 717 So.2d 95 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998), which certified conflict with the opinion in Huffman v. State, 693 So.2d 570 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996). We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const.

The relevant facts are set forth in the opinion below:

Spencer appeals from an order denying his motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 3.800(a). We determine that the trial court properly denied relief. See State v. Mancino, 705 So.2d 1379, 1381 (Fla.1998)

. We do, however, find that the trial court did not follow the proper procedures when it determined that it would not entertain any further pro se challenges to Spencer's 1992 conviction and sentence. Prior to the imposition of sanctions, the trial court must issue an order to show cause which initiates a separate proceeding independent of the 3.800 action.

. . . .
Courts may, upon a demonstration of egregious abuse of judicial process, restrict parties from filing pro se pleadings with the court....1
In Martin v. Circuit Court, Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, 627 So.2d 1298 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993), ... the fourth district held that the circuit court could not issue such an order without first giving the pro se litigant notice and an opportunity to be heard. See id. at 1299-1300. Nevertheless, in Huffman v. State, the Second District Court of Appeal, after acknowledging the procedural due process rights of a pro se litigant recognized in Martin, held that a trial court could prohibit a prisoner from filing further pro se attacks on a particular conviction or sentence without affording the prisoner notice or an opportunity to be heard prior to the imposition of the sanction. The court in Huffman reasoned that because the sanction imposed did not completely bar the prisoner's access to the courts on other matters, it "did not rise to the level that requires the due process safeguards discussed in Martin."
We find ourselves in disagreement with the second district's opinion in Huffman, and we certify conflict with that decision.

Spencer, 717 So.2d at 96 (citations omitted) (footnotes omitted).

In certifying conflict with Huffman, the First District reasoned that "[f]undamental fairness and the necessity of the creation of a complete record require that a party be given reasonable notice prior to the imposition at the trial level of this extreme sanction." Id. at 97. Therefore, the First District reversed the trial court's sanction and remanded the case with instructions that the trial court first issue an order to show cause why the sanction should not be imposed and allow Spencer a reasonable time to respond. See id.

The precise issue before us is whether a trial court must first provide a litigant notice and a reasonable opportunity to respond before prohibiting further pro se attacks on his or her conviction and sentence as a sanction for prior repeated and frivolous motions.2 This Court has never explicitly addressed this issue. However, as a matter of practice, this Court has first issued orders to show cause before denying a litigant access in this Court to challenge his or her conviction, sentence, or disciplinary actions during confinement. See, e.g., Rivera v. State, 728 So.2d 1165, 1165 (Fla.1998),

petition for cert. filed, No. 98-8366 (U.S. Mar. 3, 1999); Attwood v. Singletary, 661 So.2d 1216, 1216 (Fla. 1995).

We have recognized the importance of the constitutional guarantee of citizen access to the courts, with or without an attorney. See, e.g., Rivera, 728 So.2d at 1166

; Attwood, 661 So.2d at 1217; see also art. I, § 21, Fla. Const. ("The courts shall be open to every person for redress of any injury...."). Thus, denying a pro se litigant the opportunity to file future petitions is a serious sanction, especially where the litigant is a criminal defendant who has been prevented from further attacking his or her conviction, sentence, or conditions of confinement, as in Spencer and Huffman.

However, any citizen, including a citizen attacking his or her conviction, abuses the right to pro se access by filing repetitious and frivolous pleadings, thereby diminishing the ability of the courts to devote their finite resources to the consideration of legitimate claims. See Rivera, 728 So.2d at 1166

; Attwood, 661 So.2d at 1216-17; Martin, 627 So.2d at 1300. To achieve the best balance of a litigant's right of access to courts and the need of the courts to prevent repetitious and frivolous pleadings, it is important for courts to first provide notice and an opportunity to respond before preventing that litigant from bringing further attacks on his or her conviction and sentence.

Further, providing notice and an opportunity to respond through the issuance of an order to show cause also serves to generate a more complete record.3 If the litigant is thereafter denied further pro se access to the courts, the appellate courts will have an enhanced ability to determine whether the denial of access is an appropriate sanction under the circumstances.

Based on the foregoing, we approve Spencer to the extent it is not inconsistent with this opinion. We intend these...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1057 cases
  • Collins v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • October 6, 2020
    ...court issued an order directing the Appellant to show cause why he should not be prohibited from future pro se filings. State v. Spencer, 751 So. 2d 47, 48 (Fla. 1999) (requiring that courts "first provide notice and an opportunity to respond before preventing [a] litigant from bringing fur......
  • Bell v. Dep't of Corrs.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • January 13, 2022
    ...Court issued an order directing Appellant to show cause why he should not be prohibited from future pro se filings. See State v. Spencer, 751 So.2d 47, (Fla. 1999) (requiring that courts “first provide notice and an opportunity to respond before preventing [a] litigant from bringing 6 furth......
  • Hickmon v. Jones, SC17–997
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 1, 2018
    ...So.2d 1236 (Fla. 2004), and expressly retained jurisdiction to consider the imposition of sanctions. In accordance with State v. Spencer , 751 So.2d 47 (Fla. 1999), we ordered Hickmon to show cause why he should not be barred from filing further pro se requests for relief.In his response to......
  • Steele v. State, SC08-1865.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • July 9, 2009
    ...to the level of the "egregious abuse of process" necessary to warrant sanctioning a pro se litigant as contemplated by State v. Spencer, 751 So.2d 47 (Fla. 1999). For the reasons that follow, we reject Steele's arguments and impose the appropriate Since 1999, Steele has initiated twenty-sev......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Post-conviction relief
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books The Florida Criminal Cases Notebook. Volume 1-2 Volume 1
    • April 30, 2021
    ...9-8 To impose sanctions and prohibit the filing of future post-conviction motions, the court must follow the rules of State v. Spencer, 751 So. 2d 47 (Fla. 1999) and provide notice and a right to be heard through an order to show cause. Smith v. State, 71 So. 3d 246 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011) Peti......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT