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Legal fees in battle over expressways control pass $1.6 million

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Front Page » Communities » Legal fees in battle over expressways control pass $1.6 million

Written by on January 12, 2022

Legal fees in battle over expressways control pass $1.6 million

The legal battle over the control of five expressways running solely in Miami-Dade County has cost the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) $326,469.57 on attorneys’ fees, costs, and filing fees paid to outside firms or counsel. To the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX), fighting for its own existence, the legal battle that began in 2019 has cost $1.3 million paid only to outside counsel.

“In-house department attorneys have not recorded time spent providing legal counsel to the department in connection with this matter,” said Tish Burgher, communications manager of FDOT. MDX has only one in-house general counsel and lawyer.

“I am MDX’s General Counsel and only lawyer, as such, I do not personally handle litigation,” said Carlos Zaldivar of MDX in an email to Miami Today. “All litigation involving MDX is handled by outside counsel regardless of the subject matter so hiring outside counsel to handle this matter is not unusual, rather standard protocol.”

In December, FDOT completed a roadway project along SR 112/I 195/Julia Tuttle Causeway from east of SR 5/US 1/Biscayne Boulevard to SR 907/Alton Road in the cities of Miami and Miami Beach, an interim bus-on-shoulder project with a cost estimated at $405,802 – $79,332.43 above the legal fees spent on litigation.

MDX mailed in December more than 60,000 checks as part of its Frequent Driver Rewards program, totaling $4.8 million, or 3.7 times the amounts spent on the litigation.

The dispute over the $4 billion assets MDX operates, including the Gratigny Parkway (SR 924), Airport Expressway (SR 112), Dolphin Expressway (SR 836), Don Shula Expressway (SR 874) and Snapper Creek Expressway (SR 878) began in 2019, when the Legislature created the Greater Miami Expressway Agency (GMX) to replace MDX and abolished the authority. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law, and MDX immediately brought the case into court.

The first and original lawsuit was filed by MDX in May 2019, in the Circuit Court in Leon County. MDX won as Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper determined that the act of the legislature abolishing MDX and creating GMX was unconstitutional.

Nonetheless, the state took two appeals, and won the second pertaining to the public standing doctrine when the First District Court of Appeal determined that MDX did not have “standing” to complain in its own name about an act of the legislature abolishing its existence, says a press note from Eugene Stearns, from law firm Stearns Weaver Miller.

Miami Today reached the Florida House of Representatives, a party involved in the 2019-2020 litigation, but at press time there was no response on how much the House spent on legal fees.

The First District Court did not consider the lawfulness of creating GMX and abolishing MDX. Miami-Dade County commissioners then adopted an ordinance abolishing GMX and claiming its home rule powers, giving the county protections against targeted legislation from the state.

Mr. Stearns previously told Miami Today that home rule “unequivocally” gives county government the power to create or abolish agencies, including those created by the Legislature.

MDX filed a new lawsuit on Oct. 28, 2021, the same day GMX had its first meeting since May of that year in FDOT’s District Four, in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County. Under the new case, MDX is defending its home rule and intends to get a ruling that the authority has ownership, control, and title to the $4 billion in assets it operates.

In the fiscal year 2021 alone, MDX paid law firm Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson P.A. $45,456.05 for the litigation of the case. The highest bill paid by the authority was in the fiscal 2019, which was $779,052.26

GMX has argued in court that MDX lacks legal capacity to maintain a lawsuit because it was dissolved July 3, 2019, an argument dismissed by Judge William Thomas of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, now mediating the litigation between MDX and GMX’s board members. Also, that when MDX entered into a transfer agreement with FDOT in 1996 the authority “acquired full jurisdiction and control over the operation, maintenance and finances of the system in perpetuity.”

But the order with the denial of a preliminary injunction, Judge Thomas wrote that the “ownership of the roads was never transferred to MDX; only operation and control was transferred by these contracts.”

“The home rule [amendment and charter in the 1950s] transferred the power the legislature had in passing local bills and special laws applicable only to Dade County, from the state to the Dade County Board of County Commissioners,” wrote Judge Thomas.

In three orders sent by Judge Thomas on Dec. 30, MDX had two wins as the judge recognized Miami-Dade County as a necessary party in the litigation and denied GMX’s motion to dismiss the case, but MDX was not granted a motion for preliminary injunction that would keep the status quo while courts make a final decision in the case – which can be considered a win for GMX.

MDX and GMX are to meet again in courts Jan. 18. MDX already has a public board meeting scheduled for Jan. 28 while GMX still doesn’t have any meeting on schedule.

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Homestead Police release picture of person of interest in fatal hit-and-run

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HOMESTEAD, FLA. (WSVN) – Homestead Police released a picture of a man they consider to be a person of interest in a hit-and-run that left an elderly man dead.

Police on Friday said they would like to question 20-year-old Edgar Mendez about Sunday’s crash in the area of Northwest Eighth Street and Campbell Drive.

Investigators said 71-year-old Carlos Diaz was walking was hit by a driver who took off before police responded.

If you have any information on this hit-and-run or Mendez’s whereabouts, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Armed Robbery In Medley Leads Investigators To Human Trafficking Arrests

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MEDLEY (CBSMiami) – An armed robbery in Medley leads investigators to make two arrests in human trafficking.  

“Medley Police Department responded to South River Suites located at 12484 Northwest South River Drive, in regards to an armed robbery, when officers arrived they encountered three victims that stated they have been victims of an armed robbery,” Medley Police Sgt. Louis Ponce said.  

READ MORE: FIU President Mark Rosenberg Resigns, Cites Health Issues

Officers responded shortly after 5:30 a.m. Thursday.

The victims said the two men knocked on their door, and apparently had on masks.  

“And when the victims went to open the door, they were armed with firearms and robbed the victims,” Ponce said.  

According to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundel’s office, one of the victims, one of those victims was at the location awaiting a pre-arranged prostitution encounter.  

“Our officers were able to identify specific things during their conversation that they were able to pry at which point the victim came forward and advised that yes she was in fact a victim of human trafficking.”

Through the investigation, the two other people were arrested. 40-year-old Raul Antonio Jimenez-Rodriguez and 30-year-old Grettel Caceres-Grego are facing charges that include, human trafficking and directing another to a place of prostitution.

“Broward was one of the places that she was trafficked in, as well as Tampa,” Roger Dehart said. 

READ MORE: Judge: Legal Costs In Surfside Condo Collapse May Reach $100M

This case hits close to Roger Dehart, a Broward Sheriff’s Office Court Bailiff.

He has not only witnessed hearings on human trafficking, but he says people he’s known to have been people affected. 

“Violence towards her kids at the time were 8 and 11 so they had pictures of her kids, they knew what school they went to they did their research,” Dehart explained. 

Too often people don’t know it is happening, that’s why Dehart is speaking out, and in the past has walked from Fort Lauderdale to Washington DC to raise awareness. It took 51 days he told CBS 4.  

“I would encourage people to educate themselves.”  

The US Department of State has a list of potential indicators: 

  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individual alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution

“You know this isn’t just about Miami-Dade County or Florida as a whole this is an issue that’s going on throughout the nation, throughout the world, and we need the public’s assistance to put a stop to it,” Ponce said.

MORE NEWS: FBI: Laundrie Admitted Killing Gabby Petito In Notebook

There is a human trafficking hotline for anyone who needs help. It’s 1 (888) 373-7888. Police are also still looking for any information on the robbery suspects.

Jacqueline Quynh

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M. Night Shyamalan’s creepy ‘Servant’ returns to Apple TV+ for Season 3

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M. Night Shyamalan’s “Servant” is a series full of twists and turns. Season 3 of the show returned Friday night. We talk with M and the cast about what creepy cult craziness viewers can expect.

Lauren Ambrose (as Dorothy Turner): “What is going on?”

You’re about to find out what’s going on in the new season of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Servant.”

The Apple TV+ show follows Dorothy and Sean turner and their nanny Leanne, who used to be in a cult.

In Season 3, the Turners attempt to live a normal life with their son Jericho.

But that’s not possible, thanks to Leanne and her craziness.

Nell Tiger Free: “This is a very new Leanne. There’s a lot of paranoia that comes with it.”

Lauren Ambrose: “They’re fighting over the the soul and the love of this child. It’s pretty intense.”

Just like prior seasons, M. asks up-and-coming directors to join his vision.

M. Night Shyamalan: “I guess, in some little mini way, this is like a little mini-studio, “Servant,” where I get to see something anywhere in the world at a film festival, if something is sent to me, or I get to see a movie, and if I feel that kind of deep connection to it, I’ll call up the filmmaker, talk with him or her. And if I feel like, ‘Wow, they’re in a great place,’ I say, ‘Hey, will you come to Philly and direct one episode?’”

Now, with so much going on in the show, the cast members have questions from time to time.

Toby Kebbell: “I had quite a lot this season ’cause, you know, we had the break, because the pandemic hit us in Season 2, and then we started off doing Season 3 pretty quickly after that. And I was like, ‘So wait, so I don’t – I’m suddenly going to church every day? What is happening?’”

Well, hopefully, all will be answered when “Servant’s” fourth and final season airs in the future.

Rupert Grint: “Where we’re heading, I have no idea, for Season 4, is kind of anything can happen, and there’s something quite exciting about that.”

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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