B.J. MASTERSON (1919-1994) 699 FIRST AVENUE NORTH
THOMAS D. MASTERSON * ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA 33701
KEVIN F. DUGAN, Of Counsel à TELEPHONE (727) 896-3641
GREGORY J. HOAG FACSIMILE (727) 895-3559
WESTON F. SMITH E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Board Certified - Civil Trial Practice email@example.com
àAdmitted in New Hampshire & Florida
Please find below an update on the status of the FSB claim.
Following the success of the 2017 legislative session, where an official apology from the State of Florida was passed unanimously by the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives as well as a memorial bill with funding, our legal team and lobbyist team developed a strategy for the 2018 legislative session. We researched the claims bill process and historical events such as Rosewood to determine the best course of action. Since we do not have a clear picture of the total number of living victims who were abused at Dozier and Okeechobee, we crafted legislation that laid out a process for certifying victims.
Specifically, the legislation:
* Creates the "Arthur G. Dozier School and Okeechobee School Abuse Victim Certification Act."
* Defines a "victim of Florida reform school abuse" as a living person who was confined at the Dozier School or the Okeechobee School at any time between 1940 and 1975 and who was subjected to physical or sexual abuse perpetrated by personnel of the school during the period of confinement.
* Requires a person seeking to be certified as a victim of Florida reform school abuse to submit an application to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice ("DJJ") by October 1, 2018. The application must include an affidavit stating:
o That the applicant was confined at the Dozier School or the Okeechobee School;
o The beginning and ending days of the confinement; and
o That the applicant was subjected to physical or sexual abuse perpetrated by school personnel during the confinement.
* Documentation from the State Archives of Florida, the Dozier School, or the Okeechobee School, demonstrating that the applicant was confined at the school for any length of time between 1940 and 1975; and
* Proof of identification, including a current form of photo ID.
The bill requires the DJJ to examine an application within 30 days of receipt and notify the applicant of any errors or omissions or request any additional information relevant to the review of the application. Should the DJJ need additional information from the applicant to process the application, the applicant will have 15 days after receiving such notification from the DJJ to complete or modify the application. The bill prohibits the DJJ from denying an application due to the applicant's failure to correct an error or submit additional information requested by the DJJ if the DJJ failed to timely notify the applicant of the error. The bill requires the DJJ to notify the applicant of its determination within five business days after processing and reviewing the application. If the DJJ determines that an application meets the requirements of the act, the DJJ must certify the applicant as a victim of Florida reform school abuse. The bill requires the DJJ to process and review all applications that were submitted by October 1, 2018, and submit a list of all certified victims to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by March 1, 2019.
Link to Senate Bill
Link to House Bill
We asked Sen. Darryl Rouson and Rep. Tracie Davis to sponsor the 2018 bills, since they sponsored the Dozier apology bills in 2017. They have been strong, tireless advocates for the White House Boys. The Senate bill passed its first two committees in the Senate and was ready to be heard at its last committee stop before it reached the floor. We received strong support in the Senate. Unfortunately, the House bill did not get placed on a committee agenda, and therefore, was not heard in the Florida House. Bills must be heard and pass each chamber in order to become a law (pending the Governor's approval). The House was concerned about the efficacy and accuracy of the certification process in the legislation and the precedent the legislation would set for other matters, e.g., other groups of people pursuing similar certification legislation and significant claims bills targeting DJJ, DOC, or other state agencies. For these reasons, the legislation did not pass in the 2018 session.
We need to determine if there is another path to pursuing a victim certification process or a claims bill. Conversations will need to take place with incoming leadership and staff in the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives prior to the 2019 legislative session. The bill filing deadline for a claims bill in the Senate is August 1, 2018. The legal team and lobbying team are developing a timeline for when those conversations take place. Please understand that we continue to face significant challenges, but we are doing everything in our power to try to gain the support of the legislature and have the appropriate bills passed.
The Legal and Lobbying Team