A $3.5 million jury verdict against Miami-Dade County and a declaration that a county ordinance regulating stevedores was unconstitutional were affirmed Friday morning by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The decision means that Florida Transportation Service Inc., which complained it was unfairly denied a permit to operate at the Port of Miami in 2003, 2004 and 2005, will collect a total $4 million in damages from the county.
"The permitting practices did not further, but if anything rather disserved, the county's purported purposes and benefits," said the opinion by U.S. Circuit Judge Frank Hull, Senior Judge Emmett Ripley Cox and U.S. District Judge Donald Walter of Louisiana sitting by designation.
U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan (who now sits in the Eleventh Circuit) in Miami ruled in 2008 that the ordinance on stevedores interfered with interstate commerce. Jordan ruled the county ordinance guaranteed work for the nine existing stevedore companies but kept others out.
Picture Obtained from Daily Business Review Dec. 28, 2012
Florida Transportation, a non-union company, first attempted to obtain a permit in 1999 and finally received one for 2011 after prevailing at the 2010 jury trial. A key piece of evidence at the 10-day trial was a letter from the Southeast Florida Employers Port Association to the port saying that giving a new company a permit would result in "destructive competition."
The Southeast Florida Employers Port Association represents nine unionized companies whose workers belong to the International Longshoremen's Association.
The appellate court's opinion is 83 pages long. It essentially agreed with Judge Jordan that the county's conduct in protecting existing stevedores from outside competition violated the U.S. Constitution. If you are interested in receiving a copy of the decision or wish to reach me, you may do so by email at email@example.com.