interdistrict conflict

Is the “Bad” Appellate Case Binding or Persuasive?

Posted by David Adelstein on November 14, 2017
Appeal, Trial Perspectives / Comments Off on Is the “Bad” Appellate Case Binding or Persuasive?

There are times I hear that because the “bad” appellate case is in another appellate district compared to the appellate district where my case is located, that “bad” case is not binding. This sentiment is not necessarily true, particularly if there are no interdistrict conflicting opinions relating to the “bad” appellate case (and, more appropriately, the legal issue that “bad” case deals with).   This was explained by the Florida Supreme Court in Pardo v. State, 596 So.2d 665, 666-67 (Fla.1992):

This Court has stated that “[t]he decisions of the district courts of appeal represent the law of Florida unless and until they are overruled by this [Florida Supreme] Court.” Stanfill v. State, 384 So.2d 141, 143 (Fla.1980). Thus, in the absence of interdistrict conflict, district court decisions bind all Florida trial courts. Weiman v. McHaffie, 470 So.2d 682, 684 (Fla.1985). The purpose of this rule was explained by the Fourth District in State v. Hayes:

The District Courts of Appeal are required to follow Supreme Court decisions. As an adjunct to this rule it is logical and necessary in order to preserve stability and predictability in the law that, likewise, trial courts be required to follow the holdings of higher courts—District Courts of Appeal. The proper hierarchy of decisional holdings would demand that in the event the only case on point on a district level is from a district other than the one in which the trial court is located, the trial court be required to follow that decision. Alternatively, if the district court of the district in which the trial court is located has decided the issue, the trial court is bound to follow it. Contrarily, as between District Courts of Appeal, a sister district’s opinion is merely persuasive.

333 So.2d 51, 53 (Fla. 4th DCA 1976).

In other words, and further noted by the Florida Supreme Court, “Absent an opinion from this Court, all trial courts in this State would be bound by the opinion of the First District [or any appellate district] until there is a contrary decision from the appellate court in their own district.Charles v. Southern Baptist Hospital of Florida, Inc., 209 So.3d 1199, n.2 (Fla. 2017).

Also, federal district and circuit court cases (absent the United States Supreme Court) are not binding precedent on trial courts. Rather, they are persuasive authority. See State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Edge Family Chiropractic, P.A., 41 So.3d 293, 297 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010) (“First, the [federal] cases are not binding precedent; they are, at most, persuasive authority.”); Roland v. Fla. East Coast Ry., LLC, 873 So.2d 1271, n.5 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004) (“This court is bound by decisions of the United States Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court. Decisions of the federal courts of appeals are persuasive but not binding.”) (internal citation omitted).

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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