TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Florida taxpayers are on the hook for more than $1.5 million in legal fees — including nearly $1 million to civil-rights lawyers — because of Gov. Rick Scott’s failed push to force welfare applicants and tens of thousands of state workers to submit to suspicionless drug tests.
The state agreed earlier this month to pay $600,000 to the Florida Justice Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represented a single father who sued the Department of Children and Families over a 2011 welfare drug-testing law. The payment, issued this week, was part of a settlement in the case, abandoned by Scott earlier this year after four years of litigation and multiple court decisions striking down the law.
A federal appeals court ruled in December that the state’s mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of applicants in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program is an unconstitutional violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. After the ruling, Scott decided to walk away from the lawsuit.
“We are proud to have brought an end to the policy,” Florida Justice Institute Executive Director Randall Berg said.