Florida Senate - 2024                              (NP)    SB 14
       By Senator Wright
       8-00095A-24                                             202414__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act for the relief of Maury Hernandez; providing an
    3         appropriation to compensate Maury Hernandez, a former
    4         Broward County Sheriff’s deputy, for injuries and
    5         damages sustained as a consequence of the Department
    6         of Corrections’ failures to enforce probation laws,
    7         regulations, and policies; providing legislative
    8         intent that certain liens be waived; providing a
    9         limitation on the payment of compensation and attorney
   10         fees; providing an effective date.
   12         WHEREAS, at 11:45 a.m. on August 6, 2007, Broward County
   13  Sheriff’s Deputy Maury Hernandez, then 28 years of age, was
   14  operating a vehicle assigned to him by the sheriff’s office and
   15  within its jurisdiction when he observed David Maldonado, then
   16  23 years of age, the operator of a motorcycle, fail to stop at
   17  three traffic signals on Pembroke Road, and
   18         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez engaged his lights and stopped
   19  Mr. Maldonado at a location within the 3700 block of Pembroke
   20  Road, where he parked and got out of his vehicle, approached Mr.
   21  Maldonado, identified himself as a deputy sheriff, and displayed
   22  his badge, and
   23         WHEREAS, Mr. Maldonado falsely identified himself as a
   24  police officer from Opa-locka and, when asked to produce
   25  identification, dropped his motorcycle, pushed Deputy Hernandez,
   26  and fled on foot, at which time Deputy Hernandez gave chase,
   27  also on foot, and
   28         WHEREAS, during the chase, Mr. Maldonado suddenly turned
   29  around and fired two rounds from a .45 caliber handgun, striking
   30  Deputy Hernandez in the head, and
   31         WHEREAS, although Deputy Hernandez was critically wounded,
   32  he miraculously survived the shooting and was rushed to Memorial
   33  Regional Hospital in Hollywood, where he was in a coma and was
   34  placed on life support, and
   35         WHEREAS, shortly after the shooting, Mr. Maldonado was
   36  apprehended by Hollywood police in a nearby condominium complex
   37  where he had attempted a carjacking, and
   38         WHEREAS, Mr. Maldonado was ultimately charged and convicted
   39  of attempted murder in the first degree and numerous probation
   40  violations, and he is currently serving a life sentence, and
   41         WHEREAS, 4 months before the shooting, on April 18, 2007,
   42  Mr. Maldonado, a habitual traffic offender with a history of
   43  multiple drug offenses and an illegal concealed weapon
   44  conviction, pled no contest to felony traffic charges and was
   45  placed on probation for 24 months, and
   46         WHEREAS, the Department of Corrections’ records document
   47  that in April and May of 2007, before the shooting of Deputy
   48  Hernandez, Mr. Maldonado twice admitted to his probation
   49  officers that he illegally possessed a firearm in violation of
   50  Florida law, the department’s zero-tolerance policy, and the
   51  conditions of his probation supervision, but his probation
   52  officers simply warned him that he could not possess a weapon
   53  and did not report the violations to the state attorney or to
   54  the presiding circuit judge, and
   55         WHEREAS, on June 28, 2007, Mr. Maldonado admitted a third
   56  probation violation for buying and using illegal drugs in
   57  violation of s. 948.03, Florida Statutes, which prohibits
   58  probationers from possessing drugs or narcotics unless
   59  prescribed by a physician, and violating the conditions of his
   60  probation, but the probation officer failed to report the
   61  violation, and
   62         WHEREAS, under s. 948.03, Florida Statutes (now s. 790.23,
   63  Florida Statutes), Mr. Maldonado was prohibited from possessing,
   64  carrying, or owning any firearm unless authorized by the court,
   65  and
   66         WHEREAS, s. 944.09, Florida Statutes, requires the
   67  Department of Corrections to supervise probationers, stay
   68  informed about the probationers’ conduct, and cooperate with
   69  circuit courts exercising criminal jurisdiction over
   70  probationers, and
   71         WHEREAS, rule 33-302.1031, Florida Administrative Code,
   72  implements s. 944.09, Florida Statutes, and provides that
   73  probation officers under the authority of the Department of
   74  Corrections are responsible for supervision and control of
   75  offenders, including enforcing conditions of supervision,
   76  conducting investigations, and initiating arrest of offenders
   77  under their supervision, as appropriate, with or without a
   78  warrant, and
   79         WHEREAS, rule 33-302.1031, Florida Administrative Code,
   80  further provides that a probation officer must notify the
   81  sentencing or releasing authority whenever the officer has
   82  reasonable grounds to believe that a willful violation of any
   83  condition of supervision has occurred, and
   84         WHEREAS, in 2003, the Department of Corrections established
   85  a zero-tolerance policy requiring probation officers to report
   86  all technical violations committed by offenders on community
   87  control to the court, and the department extended this policy in
   88  2004 to all offenders under community supervision in response to
   89  several cases in which supervised offenders committed murders,
   90  and
   91         WHEREAS, the Department of Corrections modified its zero
   92  tolerance policy in August 2007 to require probation officers to
   93  report only willful violations, such as the violations committed
   94  by Mr. Maldonado, that are purposely committed by an offender or
   95  over which the offender had control, and
   96         WHEREAS, shortly after the shooting, and while Deputy
   97  Hernandez remained hospitalized and struggling for his life, a
   98  Department of Corrections spokesperson defended the probation
   99  officer’s actions as “errors in judgment,” stating that
  100  “everything was done by the book,” the department had counseled
  101  the probation officer to “keep his case notes and records
  102  complete and up to date,” and the probation officer had the
  103  support of, and remained employed by, the department despite his
  104  clear violations of the department’s zero-tolerance policy, and
  105         WHEREAS, by virtue of its zero-tolerance policy in effect
  106  at the time of Deputy Hernandez’s shooting, the Department of
  107  Corrections had a nondiscretionary duty to timely report Mr.
  108  Maldonado’s violations of law and the conditions of his
  109  probation to the state attorney’s office and the presiding
  110  circuit judge, but failed to act on his repeated probation
  111  violations, and
  112         WHEREAS, not only did the Department of Corrections fail to
  113  report Mr. Maldonado’s illegal possession of a firearm, but his
  114  probation file showed the use of illegal drugs and was replete
  115  with omissions and false statements, including claims that Mr.
  116  Maldonado was a United States Marine headed to Iraq and worked
  117  as an armed security guard, even though it is illegal for felons
  118  and probationers to use drugs or possess a weapon, and
  119         WHEREAS, Mr. Maldonado’s 70-page probation file contained
  120  no evidence that the probation officers ever contacted his
  121  alleged employers to confirm his job status or made sure he had
  122  given up his weapons, and
  123         WHEREAS, the Broward County Sheriff’s investigation of
  124  Deputy Hernandez’s shooting concluded that, had the Department
  125  of Corrections brought the repeated violations of Mr.
  126  Maldonado’s probation to the attention of the state attorney and
  127  presiding circuit judge, Mr. Maldonado would have been in jail
  128  at the time of the shooting, and
  129         WHEREAS, the state attorney’s office for the Seventeenth
  130  Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County concurred that Mr.
  131  Maldonado’s violations were “serious” and should have been
  132  reported by the Department of Corrections to the state attorney
  133  and the presiding circuit judge and, had Mr. Maldonado’s
  134  violations been reported, he would have been jailed without bail
  135  and would not have been on the streets when he shot Deputy
  136  Hernandez, and
  137         WHEREAS, after the shooting, the Department of Corrections
  138  announced that Mr. Maldonado’s probation file had been turned
  139  over to the department’s Office of Inspector General for review,
  140  but no report or any records of a department review exist, nor
  141  to this day has the department explained why Mr. Maldonado’s
  142  multiple violations of law, department policy, and the terms of
  143  his probation were not enforced and reported to the state
  144  attorney and presiding circuit judge as required by law, and
  145         WHEREAS, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Deputy Hernandez
  146  in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit which sought relief under s.
  147  768.28, Florida Statutes, but was dismissed by the trial court
  148  on January 27, 2016, the court holding that under existing
  149  Florida case law, the Department of Corrections owed no specific
  150  or special legal duty of care to Deputy Hernandez, who is
  151  without a legal or administrative remedy for his claim, and
  152         WHEREAS, despite the court’s ruling that Deputy Hernandez
  153  is without a legal remedy, Florida legislative precedent dating
  154  back to 1831, as stated in the Legislative Claim Bill Manual
  155  (2022), defines a claim bill to be “a means by which an injured
  156  party may recover damages even though the public officer or
  157  agency involved may be immune from suit,” and
  158         WHEREAS, the Florida Supreme Court and appellate courts
  159  acknowledge relief for “equitable claims filed without an
  160  underlying excess judgment” or settlement, and the far-reaching
  161  circumstances under which the Legislature may extend equitable
  162  relief for an injured party even though the public officer or
  163  agency may be immune from suit, and
  164         WHEREAS, these cases include Gamble v. Wells, 450 So.2d 850
  165  (Fla. 1984), holding that any claim bill, whether based on an
  166  existing judgment, a settlement, or an equitable claim, is an
  167  “act of legislative grace” and “a voluntary recognition of its
  168  moral obligation by the legislature,” and is “firmly entrenched
  169  in legislative discretion”; Searcy Denney, et al. vs. State of
  170  Fla., 209 So.3d 1181 (Fla. 2017), citing Noel v. Schlesinger,
  171  P.A., 984 So.2d 1265 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) and Gamble v. Wells,
  172  supra; Dickinson v. Bradley, 298 So.2d 352 (Fla. 1974), in which
  173  the Florida Supreme Court stated that the “purpose” of any
  174  legislative relief act is to “discharge the state’s moral
  175  obligation to any individual or entity whom or which the
  176  legislature recognizes as being entitled to such”; and Jetton v.
  177  Jacksonville Electric Authority, 399 So.2d 396, 397 (Fla. 1st
  178  DCA 1981), holding that while the Legislature has placed limits
  179  on recovery, “claimants remain free to seek legislative relief
  180  bills, as they did during days of complete sovereign immunity,”
  181  and
  182         WHEREAS, the facts as set forth herein establish that the
  183  Department of Corrections failed to follow Florida statutes,
  184  regulations, and policies and take action to prevent a convicted
  185  felon on probation from possessing a weapon; enforce numerous
  186  other serious and willful probation violations committed by a
  187  probationer who falsely claimed to be a United States Marine;
  188  and supervise, investigate, enforce, and report any of these
  189  probation violations to the state attorney and presiding circuit
  190  judge as required by law, and
  191         WHEREAS, this claim bill is supported by the Broward County
  192  Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Police Benevolent Association, and
  193  the International Union of Police Associations, and
  194         WHEREAS, given the unique and tragic set of circumstances
  195  of this case, including the attempted murder and permanent
  196  disability of a sworn Florida police officer who was critically
  197  and permanently injured in the line of duty, Deputy Hernandez is
  198  deserving of legislative grace and the Legislature’s exercise of
  199  its exclusive authority to appropriate funds to compensate him
  200  for his injuries and economic damages, and
  201         WHEREAS, these injuries include permanent brain injuries
  202  and impairment, including hemiparesis to the entire left side of
  203  his body, severe motor and sensory nerve damage, spasticity,
  204  numbness and muscle weakness, impaired walking and balance,
  205  cognitive impairment, hydrocephalus treated with the insertion
  206  of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt that drains excess cerebrospinal
  207  fluid from his brain’s ventricles into his abdomen, a silicone
  208  plate that covers a third of his skull, and fragments of the .45
  209  caliber bullet which remain permanently lodged in his brain, and
  210         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez has endured multiple surgeries,
  211  including a tracheostomy, multiple brain surgeries,
  212  hydrocephalus shunt surgery, and months of in-patient hospital
  213  care, followed by a year of daylong physical, occupational,
  214  speech, visual, cognitive, and psychological therapy, and
  215         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez continued to receive various
  216  therapies and medical care on a daily basis for more than 3
  217  years until his insurance provider discontinued payments to
  218  health care providers, and
  219         WHEREAS, to regain and restore maximum medical stability,
  220  Deputy Hernandez needs to resume the medical care and
  221  professional therapy treatments he no longer receives, but he is
  222  without the financial resources to do so, and
  223         WHEREAS, at the time of his injury, Deputy Hernandez was
  224  earning a salary of approximately $60,000 annually with
  225  benefits, including medical and retirement benefits, and
  226         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez attempted to return to work at
  227  the Broward County Sheriff’s Office but was unable to perform to
  228  minimum standards, and
  229         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez has been declared by his
  230  physicians to be totally and permanently disabled, and he is
  231  unable to earn a living, and
  232         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez has suffered economic damages,
  233  including lost income and the capacity to earn income and
  234  related benefits, including medical insurance and retirement
  235  benefits, and
  236         WHEREAS, a life care plan and vocational impact report
  237  formulated by an independent certified comprehensive care plan
  238  company with more than 35 years of experience providing medical
  239  case management, vocational services, and rehabilitative
  240  services to individuals and insurance companies, in consultation
  241  with and reliance upon the opinions of Deputy Hernandez’s
  242  physicians, assessed his future medical and life care needs,
  243  which will amount to $2,243,981.97, and
  244         WHEREAS, the study found that Deputy Hernandez’s wage
  245  losses and earning capacity amount to $3,353,924.70 had he
  246  remained in law enforcement and $4,649,658.54 had he completed
  247  law school, which he had started at the time he sustained his
  248  injury, and had he become a lawyer as he planned, and
  249         WHEREAS, a lien has been filed against Deputy Hernandez in
  250  the amount of $1,133,448.06 by the workers’ compensation insurer
  251  that paid benefits for past medical and wage-related expenses,
  252  and
  253         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez’s total economic damages amount
  254  to between $6,731,354.73 and $8,027,088.56, and
  255         WHEREAS, in addition to his economic damages, Deputy
  256  Hernandez has suffered devastating permanent injuries and
  257  damages, including severe bodily injury, excruciating pain and
  258  suffering, total disability, physical and mental impairment,
  259  disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment
  260  of life, and financial hardship, and
  261         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez, without a legal or
  262  administrative remedy to seek redress for his injuries and
  263  damages, seeks equitable relief from the Legislature, NOW,
  266  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  268         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
  269  found and declared to be true.
  270         Section 2. The Legislature acknowledges that the state’s
  271  system of justice yielded an imperfect result in this case and
  272  that Maury Hernandez should be granted relief for the injuries
  273  and damages he suffered while in the line of duty as a
  274  consequence of the Department of Corrections’ failure to enforce
  275  probation regulations and policies then in place, in violation
  276  of state law.
  277         Section 3. The sum of $10 million is appropriated from the
  278  General Revenue Fund to the Department of Corrections for the
  279  relief of Maury Hernandez for injuries and damages sustained.
  280         Section 4. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw
  281  a warrant in favor of Maury Hernandez in the amount of $10
  282  million upon funds of the Department of Corrections in the State
  283  Treasury, and the Chief Financial Officer is directed to pay the
  284  same out of such funds in the State Treasury.
  285         Section 5. It is the intent of the Legislature that any
  286  lien interests held by the state arising from the treatment and
  287  care of Maury Hernandez for the occurrences described in this
  288  act be waived.
  289         Section 6. The amount awarded under this act is intended to
  290  provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims
  291  arising out of the factual situation described in this act. The
  292  total amount paid for attorney fees relating to this claim may
  293  not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded under this act.
  294         Section 7. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.