Judge Issues Permanent Injunction Striking Down In-Office Lobbying Ban as Unconstitutional

Judge Issues Permanent Injunction Striking Down In-Office Lobbying Ban as Unconstitutional 


August 11, 2023

By Caroline Klancke, Esq., Florida Ethics Institute.

In August 9, 2023, rulings a federal judge with the US District Court Southern District of Florida has struck down the state’s constitutional In-Office Lobbying Restrictions via the issuance of a permanent injunction in Garcia v. Stillman et al., case 1:22-cv-24156, finding that the restriction violated the First Amendment. After finding that the strict scrutiny standard applied to the In-Office Lobbying Restrictions, Judge Beth Bloom agreed with the local officials challenging the ban finding that “the In-Office Restrictions are content-based, overbroad restrictions on speech.” 

In light of this determination, Judge Bloom further found that the local officials “are entitled to a permanent injunction prohibiting Defendants [including the Florida Commission on Ethics] from enforcing the In-Office Lobbying Restrictions.” The court further issued a Final Judgment closing the case. 

The In-Office Lobbying Restrictions contained in Art. II, s. 8(f)(2), of the Florida Constitution, prohibiting “public officers” from lobbying on issues of “policy, appropriations, or procurement” while in office, were created through a 2018 constitutional amendment, proposed by the Constitutional Revision Commission, and approved by 78.9% of the voters. In 2022 the Florida Legislature passed two laws (ss. 112.3121 and 112.3122, F.S.) implementing the constitutional amendment. 

Importantly, Judge Bloom did not block the enforcement of the six-year Post-Office Holding Lobbying Restrictions portion of the constitutional amendment contained in Art. II, s. 8(f)(3), of the Florida Constitution, which prohibit “public officers” (including all state lawmakers and elected officials, City Councilmembers, County Commissioners, School Board members, and others) from lobbying for compensation “on issues of policy, appropriations, or procurement for a period of six years” after leaving their public office or position. The Post-Office Holding Lobbying Restrictions further provide in Art. II, s. 8(f)(3)a.-c., the manner in which the post-office ban would apply to different types of public offices—detail which is not present in the In-Office Lobbying Restrictions. In her ruling issued Wednesday, Judge Bloom noted that the “Post-Office Restrictions are narrowly tailored based on the public official’s office” indicating that the 6-year Post-Office Holding Lobbying Restrictions may prevail in future constitutional challenges. 

The Ethics Commission (via the Solicitor General’s Office) has filed a Notice of Appeal of the final judgement with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and has also filed a motion requesting a stay of the ruling as to all public officers in the State except Mr. Garcia, who was the only plaintiff found to have standing by the District Court.   
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