Welcome to Florida! Unlike many states, Florida is an “agency intensive” state. This means that quite often, if you want to do anything, get anything, build anything, sell anything, or practice anything professionally, it is highly likely that you will need a license or a permit and/or you will need to have a significant amount of contact with a state agency. The “why?” is no longer important as this method of operation has been firmly entrenched in the state for many decades. The real question will be “how?” This will be the first in a series of short articles exploring “Administrative Law in the State of Florida.”
“Agency” can be loosely defined as a unit of government with a statewide function.[i]As an example of the pervasiveness of administrative law in the lives of Floridians, one can look at the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (“OFR”), for which I was the General Counsel prior to joining Berger Singerman. In life it is highly likely that one will open a bank account, finance a vehicle, obtain a mortgage, plan retirement through an investment advisor, and possibly dabble in the stock market. Each of those actions will cause the individual to be “touched” by the OFR. The OFR regulates banks and credit unions, motor vehicle installment dealers, mortgage brokers and securities dealers/brokers. Thus recourse or questions would be directed to this agency. The same is true for anyone attempting to be licensed, permitted or registered in any of these areas. This pattern is prevalent in Florida. It is no coincidence then that while the substance cases may range from statewide environmental to land use law (as distinguished from the more local variety) to real estate appraiser licensing to veterinarian disciplinary issues, a practitioner in these areas should also have sound understanding of the more general and foundational “administrative law.”
As a former Deputy General Counsel at the State of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation I was tasked with supervising a staff of over twenty attorneys as we regulated professionals ranging from general contractors to accountants to harbor pilots to mixed martial arts to condominium association managers/management companies. Licenses must be applied for, and disciplinary action must be processed typically though the administrative process as articulated in Ch. 120, Florida Statutes, and its attendant rules. Many states have reached out the State of Florida in an effort to model its own administrative law program after the Florida model which itself is very different from the federal model. These differences are important because expertise in one does not necessarily translate into expertise in the other. It is thus advised that one seek the advice of counsel who has experience and expertise in administrative law in all matters related to state agencies.