MIAMI -- A three-judge panel in the Florida Third District Court of Appeals has approved the petition of Shane Burnett in his quest to obtain certiorari review of an order from a lower court concerning allegations lodged against him by Target Department Stores. 

A writ of certiorari orders a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court can review it.

The order, issued March 28, means the Third District Court of Appeals will review an order issued by the Appellate Division of the Miami-Dade Circuit Court that had dismissed Burnett’s appeal of an order against him by the Miami-Dade County Court’s Small Claims Division. The higher court said Burnett’s petition was granted because the circuit court dismissed his appeal without giving him the required procedural due process

Along with his notice of appeal, Burnett filed a motion to appear in forma pauperis. This exempts an indigent person from paying the usual filing fees required for an appeal or other legal action.

In May 2017, Burnett filed his initial appellate brief in the circuit court, and Target filed a June 5, 2017, motion to dismiss Burnett’s appeal.

In the lower court, Target argued Burnett’s appeal should be dismissed because of his failure to pay the $287 filing fee for the appeal. On June 15, 2017, the circuit court appellate panel granted Burnett’s motion to appear in forma pauperis and denied Target’s motion to dismiss Burnett’s appeal.

A few days later, Target filed a motion for rehearing, saying the circuit court should not have granted Burnett’s forma pauperis motion. The company said that not only had Burnett failed to complete the application for determination of civil indigent status, but that Burnett had filed 18 civil cases during the past two years and, as a result, had paid thousands of dollars in filing fees.

In addition, Target said in the past two years, Burnett had been declared indigent in only three of 25 criminal cases in which he was a defendant. It argued the court was negligent in failing to consider this.

On Nov. 29, 2017, a different appellate panel of the circuit court entered the challenged order and granted Target’s renewed dismissal motion. Burnett protested this dismissal order, both by appealing the order and petitioning the Third District Court of Appeals for mandamus relief.

The three-judge panel ruled, “We treated Burnett’s challenge to the order as a petition seeking certiorari review and ordered briefing accordingly.” The panel also approved Burnett’s request to appear in forma pauperis, and waived the required filing fees.

The judges also said, “Our analysis is guided by two well-settled principles. One, due process requires giving a litigant reasonable notice of a deadline before that deadline arrives, and two, Florida’s public policy favors deciding controversies on their merits.”

The order was signed by Judges Sarah I. Zabel, Valerie R. Manno Schurr and Monica Gordo. 

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