S. Fla. Water Mgmt. Dist. v. RLI Live Oak, LLCAnnotate this Case
The South Florida Water Management District alleged that RLI, Live Oak, LLC, a land developer and owner of property that purportedly contained wetlands, participated in unauthorized dredging, construction activity, and filling of wetlands without first obtaining the District’s approval. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of the District and awarded the District $81,900 in civil penalties. The district court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in basing its findings on a preponderance of the evidence standard and not the clear and convincing evidence standard. On motion for rehearing or certification, the district court certified a question for a determination by the Supreme Court of the proper burden of proof. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where the Legislature statutorily authorizes a state governmental agency to recover a “civil penalty” in a “court of competent jurisdiction” but does not specify the agency’s burden of proof, the agency is not required to prove the alleged violation by clear and convincing evidence but, rather, by a preponderance of the evidence.