Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Reporter Bests Florida Appeals Court

In a surprise victory that left hot dog munching onlookers stunned, Pensacola News Journal reporter Michael Stewart today overwhelmed Florida's First District Court of Appeals in a series of eight back-to-back appeals involving county taxation of Portofino Towers residential units on Pensacola Beach. Although out-manned 3 to 1, and technically disabled for want of a law degree, the PNJ's ace newsman wrote circles around the appeals court panel of judges Michael Allen, Marguerite Davis, and Paul Hawkes.

The final score was 301 words to 8. Stewart scored all of his words in a single newspaper article, written inside of an hour just today. He was dazzling behind the mound on his desk, frequently firing facts right down the pipe while masterfully mixing up his delivery with active verbs, multi-syllabic words, and the occasional off-speed historical fact or futuristic prediction. Here's just a sample:
A three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeals upheld Escambia County Circuit Judge Frank Bell’s March 2007 decision that Portofino Towers condominium leaseholders must pay property taxes.

The court’s ruling released late Tuesday paves the way for payment of $19 million in back taxes by residents of the upscale condominiums.
* * *
Beach leaseholders do not own the land on which their homes and businesses are built. They pay lease fees and have argued beach taxes are not legal. Lease fees are for a minimum of 99 years, with many leases providing an option for an additional 99 years.
The three appellate court judges barely showed up to play. They had home field advantage and nearly a year to prepare their own opinions in the various Portofino cases, designated Nos. 07-2292, 07-2293, 07-2293, 07-2294, 07-2296, 07-2297, 07-2298, and 07-2305.

Yet, the trio of high-salaried judges only managed to dink out a single bush-league word, repeated eight times: "Affirmed." Everybody was left stranded on the constitutional bases.

As we have noted before with this court, "that's 2.66 alphabet letters for each of the three judges." At an annual salary of $147,524 per judge -- assuming they all contributed equally to the effort -- writing that single word "affirmed" works out to $55,460.15 for each of the three judges. By contrast, we're guessing that news reporter Stewart draws a salary of ten cents for every whole word, on his best days.

Onlookers disappointed in the pricey judges' curiously laconic performance may seek season-ending tickets to a bigger league.

Dept. of Further Amplification

Dark Secrets on Pensacola Beach
More from reporter Michael Stewart about less from the Florida appeals court.

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