McKeegan v. Ernst, — So.3d —- 2012 WL 1192186 (Fla. 4th DCA April 11, 2012)

In contested probate proceedings, the law in Florida is clear: traditional standards controlling the issuance of temporary injunctions or “freeze” orders in other civil actions do NOT constrain a probate judge in the exercise of his inherent jurisdiction over a decedent’s estate. See In re: Estate of Barsanti, 773 So.2d 1206 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000). As I previously wrote here, this same permissive standard has been extended to contested guardianship proceedings.

What’s interesting about the linked-to opinion above is what the 4th DCA did NOT do. It did NOT extend to trust cases the permissive temporary-injunction standard applied to contested probate proceedings.

Why the permissive probate standard wasn’t applied in this trust case isn’t addressed by the 4th DCA, but my guess is it has something to do with the fact that under F.S. 731.105 probate cases are by statute in rem proceedings, and that under F.S. 736.0201 trust cases are presumed to be just like any other civil suit, which are usually in personam proceedings. This jurisdictional distinction is a big deal, and plays out in significant ways in how these cases should be litigated, including, apparently, when and if a temporary-injunction should be granted. Here’s how the 4th DCA explained its ruling:

“A party seeking a temporary injunction must prove: (1) that it will suffer irreparable harm unless the status quo is maintained; (2) that it has no adequate remedy at law; (3) that it has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (4) that a temporary injunction will serve the public interest.” Jouvence Ctr. for Advanced Health, LLC v. Jouvence Rejuvenation Ctrs., LLC, 14 So.3d 1097, 1099 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009) (citation omitted). “The party must also establish that it has a clear legal right to the relief sought. Finally, a trial court must make ‘clear, definite, and unequivocally sufficient factual findings’ supporting each of the required elements before entering an injunction.” Id. (citation omitted). “[A] trial court reversibly errs when an order fails to make specific findings for each of the elements.” Wade v. Brown, 928 So.2d 1260, 1262 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006) (citation omitted). Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.610(c) provides that “[e]very injunction shall specify the reasons for entry….” The order granting the temporary injunction herein does not make sufficient factual findings which support each of the elements. On remand, the trial court must make specific findings showing that appellees are entitled to relief.

Additionally, appellant argues and we agree that her due process right to notice and an opportunity to be heard were violated because appellees did not meet their heavy burden to establish that notice was not required.

The ex parte temporary injunction failed to meet the requirements of Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.610(a). Appellees’ attorney did not certify in writing any efforts made to give notice or any reasons why notice should not be required. Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.610(a)(1)(B). Fla. High Sch. Activities Ass’n., Inc. v. Benitez, 748 So.2d 358 (Fla. 5th DCA 1999) (attorney did not certify in writing any efforts made to give notice and notice by facsimile only one hour before injunction was granted was insufficient). Rule 1.610(a)(2) also requires the court to “give the reasons why the order was granted without notice if notice was not given,” which the trial court did not do. See Bookall v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc., 995 So.2d 1116 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) (order failing to explicitly state reasons why the order was granted without notice requires reversal even though movant met its burden of establishing the elements for entry of an injunction). For these additional reasons we reverse the order granting the ex parte temporary injunction.