Matt Towery

In most, if not every, state in the nation, there are two instances in which a trial requires a 12-person jury: When the death penalty is at stake and when private property is being taken from an individual.

One case in Florida is the epitome of government ineptitude, bureaucratic stubbornness and unnecessary costs to the taxpayers. It's an example of why people want government out of their lives.

Some years back, the state of Florida, through its Department of Agriculture and in cooperation with the federal government, relied on specious scientific research to determine that every citrus tree in the state that was within 1,900 feet or so of another tree that was infected with "citrus canker" had to be destroyed. That meant a lot of citrus trees, because Florida is studded with them.

Based on the same type of inconclusive science that brought us such apocalyptic claims as global warming, hundreds of thousands of perfectly healthy trees were destroyed in a state where citrus trees are considered a unique feature of the region's beauty.

People lost trees without real redress -- that is, until lawsuits were filed in at least four major counties in Florida asking for fair compensation for the felling of trees. The eradication of so many healthy trees was justified on the basis of a scientific study that later was deemed inconclusive, leading to the abrupt end of the "canker eradication" program.

All of this is inside baseball to most people. (Grapefruit League, no doubt!) But here is where this story becomes emblematic of the whole "nanny state" mentality that we are seeing increasingly across the nation -- much of which leads to wasteful spending and additional costs incurred by government.

In the case of these trees, the agriculture commissioner's office in Florida fought any effort to compensate individuals for their losses. That, even as the state managed to pay a private law firm many millions of dollars to fight the citizens who were affected.

Then came jury awards of around $24 million in two of Florida's largest counties, Palm Beach and Broward. But the state continued to resist, despite the fact that all sorts of interest and fees were accruing. Its appeals led all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, which refused to even hear the state's case.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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