The State of Florida has a Constitution, so does the United States of America. A Constitution, whether State or Federal, is the embodiment of the rights of the citizens.
Our Pledge of Allegiance ends “with Liberty and Justice for All”.
We want to believe our legal and judicial system is fair and will always ensure there is justice for all. But at times it appears there is a double standard where certain people or certain groups of people seem favored or disfavored in our legal system over others.
The people of the State of Florida, when they created the Florida Constitution, were committed to the concept of the inviolability of the Home, hence what is called the Florida Homestead Exemption found in Article X, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution. The family home is as close to sacred as can come under the Florida Constitution.
But there is a legal case in Tampa that may shake the sacred foundation that homesteaded property cannot be seized to pay another party's creditors.
The case involves residential property purchased in 2009 by Tampa tax attorney Terri Gaffney from her father John Gaffney who passed away in 2011. The property never lost its homestead and the property has always been homesteaded.
A lawsuit was filed in 2014, which Ms. Gaffney claims was after the relevant statute of limitations had expired, attempting to reclaim the property as part of her father's estate to pay legal expenses incurred by another family member.
In October 2017 a 13th Judicial Circuit Court judge ruled to seize the homesteaded property. A Hillsborough County sheriff knocked on the door of the property one morning and told all who were there to vacate the property in 15 minutes.
Since then the property has gone into a state of disrepair. Two vehicles and family keepsakes were forced to be abandoned and the property subsequently became subject to county code violations. The county pursued massive fines against Gaffney and her family while a circuit court had removed their legal rights to the property.
The county code violations fines were recently tossed out by a county court judge but there continues to be a number of twists and turns with Gaffney's case.
The Eye recently had an exclusive interview with Terri Gaffney. Below is a clip of that interview and a statement from Gaffney's attorney Sheldon McMullen.
Here is our interview with Terri Gaffney in its entirety.
Ms. Gaffney continues fighting the legal battle to regain the residence. Gaffney and her attorney believes this case warrants an immediate investigation.
Gaffney is concerned about judges unlawfully seizing homesteaded property in Florida which puts all homestead property at risk.
That is something we all should be worried about.