Without explanation, the U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to consider appeals filed by tobacco companies in 10 Florida lawsuits filed by sick smokers or their family members.


R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris USA and Lorillard Tobacco Co. complained to the court that their due-process rights have been violated by the consequence of the so-called Engle case, a 2006 decision by the Florida Supreme Court that has helped spur thousands of lawsuits against cigarette makers, with some of the cases resulting in multimillion-dollar verdicts.

The 2006 decision said that lawsuits filed by smokers or their family members against the tobacco industry had to be heard separately instead of as a class action — but it also established critical findings about the health dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers.


The move comes after the Faculty Senate issued a vote of no confidence in the search process for Florida State’s next president, and after the chairman of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee reversed course on consultant William Funk’s recommendation that the search be paused so powerful state Sen. John Thrasher could first be interviewed for the job.

Funk, who did not immediately reply to requests for comment, sent a two-sentence letter to the committee withdrawing and wishing the committee success. The school had already paid Funk $61,000 in fees and reimbursed costs.

Funk and his firm R. William Funk and Associates have been involved in about 375 university and college presidential and chancellor searches. He worked with FSU in 2002 when T.K. Wetherell was named president.

Funk had advised the committee that Thrasher’s aspiration for the job was keeping other desired candidates from wanting to apply.

Thrasher, R-St. Augustine and a FSU alumnus, is a former Speaker of the House and chairman of the state Republican Party. He is the current chairman of Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign.

Days after Thrasher was asked to interview, state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston asked to be considered for the position.

They are candidates to succeed Eric Barron, who left FSU to become president at Penn State.


A former Congressman and state senator is the target of findings by an administrative law judge, who called for Florida’s ethics commission to find that David Rivera improperly received state travel reimbursements and did not adequately disclose financial information.

Rivera, R-Miami, served in the state House from 2002 to 2010, before getting elected to Congress. He served one term in Washington and lost a re-election bid to Democrat Joe Garcia amid numerous ethics-related questions. Rivera is running this year to try to regain the Congressional District 26 seat.

Judge W. David Watkins’ recommendation goes to the state Commission on Ethics, which will make a final determination.

Watkins wrote that Rivera, on numerous occasions, received reimbursements from the state for travel expenses that were paid by his campaign accounts. The judge wrote that Rivera commingled personal expenses, political expenses and state House expenses on multiple credit cards, rather than having a designated credit card for his official legislative duties.

“(Rivera) personally authorized the travel expenses ... individually, and without the participation of anyone else, personally orchestrated this sequence of events,” Watkins wrote.

Rivera, denying wrongdoing through his lawyer, said that the ethics commission’s attorney pursuing Rivera presented no such evidence.