WSH Wins Appeal for Miami Art Museum

On April 17, 2013, the Third District Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of Judge Barbara Areces, Circuit Court Judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in and for Miami Dade County, finding that the lease of a portion of Bicentennial Park by the City of Miami (“City”) to the Miami Art Museum of Dade County Association, Inc. (“Miami Art Museum”) complies with the City’s Charter. WSH attorneys Joseph H. Serota and Eric P. Hockman represented Miami Art Museum in the trial court. Laura K. Wendell, who is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in the field of Appellate Practice, joined Joe and Eric on the appeal to write the brief in support of the trial court’s decision.

More than ten years ago, the City began efforts to improve Bicentennial Park, which is located just north of the American Airlines Arena where the Miami HEAT plays basketball. A comprehensive design for a new “Museum Park” incorporating both an art museum and science museum was developed and approved. The master plan and concept drawings can be seen on the City’s website at

As part of the plan, Miami Art Museum would construct and operate a world-class art museum on the site. On December 11, 2008, the City and Miami Art Museum entered into a lease conveying approximately four acres of land next to Biscayne Bay for the new art museum. Construction is currently underway at the site, and is expected to finish later this year.

Miami Neighborhoods United, representing several Miami neighborhood associations, and a Miami resident filed suit against the City and Miami Art Museum alleging that the lease violated the City’s Charter. The plaintiffs contended that the lease should have been competitively bid and submitted to the voters for approval under Sections 3(f)(iii), 29-A, and 29-B of the City’s Charter. Joe Serota and Eric Hockman argued, on behalf of the Miami Art Museum, that because the art museum is part of a government project financed in part by City bonds, the lease is exempted from the competitive bid and voter approval requirements.

Notably, no court had previously addressed the construction and application of these Charter provisions. Circuit Court Judge Barbara Areces, in a matter of first impression, held that the lease is consistent with the City’s Charter and granted final summary judgment to Miami Art Museum and the City. Following briefing and oral argument by Joe Serota, the Third District Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed Judge Areces’ decision without opinion.

Attorneys in WSH's Litigation Division have extensive experience in municipal litigation. We defend municipalities and governmental agencies in all areas of liability, including negligence, tort liability, complex constitutional law issues, sovereign immunity, qualified immunity, civil rights, torts and common law claims. We also defend elected officials, employees, individual departments, branches and divisions in both State and Federal courts at the trial and appellate levels. We have successfully defended law enforcement personnel in the areas of false arrest, excessive force, malicious prosecution and battery, including in §1983 actions.

Our Appellate Practice Group handles dozens of appeals generated each year by our trial practice, and its attorneys are frequently called upon to serve as appellate counsel for our peers. Attorneys in our Appellate Practice Group include Florida Board-certified experts, and have a record of successfully pursuing and defending appeals of final judgments and verdicts, as well as non-final, interlocutory appeals, on behalf of public and private sector clients throughout the State.

Categories: LitigationLocal GovernmentAppellate Law & Practice
Tags: Governmental LitigationMitchell A. BiermanJamie A. ColeChad S. FriedmanEdward G. GuedesEric P. HockmanMichael S. PopokJoseph H. SerotaRichard Jay WeissLaura K. WendellDavid M. WolpinMiami Commercial Litigation AttorneyMiami Commercial Litigation LawyerSouth Florida Commercial Litigation AttorneySouth Florida Commercial Litigation LawyerFort Lauderdale Local Government LawMiami Local Government LawSouth Florida Local Government LawFort Lauderdale Municipal AttorneysMiami Municipal AttorneysSouth Florida Municipal AttorneysMatthew H. MandelFort Lauderdale Appellate Law AttorneysMiami Appellate Law AttorneysSouth Florida Appellate Law AttorneysFort Lauderdale LitigatorsMiami LitigatorsFlorida Commercial Litigation LawyerFlorida Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Civil Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Commercial Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Commercial Litigation AttorneysMiami Commercial Litigation AttorneyMiami Litigation Attorney
Author(s): Eric P. Hockman