With a new year comes new challenges to Central Florida and in particular the Orlando and Orange County area.

Tourism is critical to the economic vitality of Orange County, Florida, but  in recent years the tourist industry has come under considerable stress.  The rate of growth for Orlando’s tourist industry is declining and is expected to continue to decline through 2012.[1]  South Florida’s burgeoning gambling market is sapping Central Florida’s convention business, and Orlando may be forced to cede this important market-share in order to preserve the family-centered tourism.[2] Gambling just isn’t a good fit for Orange County.

Orlando can ill-afford to lose the tourist revenue brought in by Walt Disney World, but the loss of convention business certainly hurts. So it seems like any new growth in the tourist industry should be encouraged by the local government.

The Orange County economy just can’t afford to say “no” to growth. But the Board of County Commissioners may be doing just that, if it says “no” to a project proposed by Tinwood Industries for an  expansion to a helipad for a helicopter attraction in an area of unincorporated Orange County near the attractions.  This is a boon for the tourist industry, as the proposed helipad expansion would allow transportation for additional tourists debarking from cruise ships in Cape Canaveral.

In a December 14th interview on WMFE, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs decried the impact of “unneeded bureaucracy” in slowing down the economy.  This seems to be a clear example of a project that may suffer in the face of unneeded bureaucracy.  The Substantial Change application for the helipad has been through numerous delays since it began winding its way through the local government bureaucracy in 2011.  On February 7th, 2012, the Orange County Board of Count Commissioners will meet in a quasi-judicial proceeding to determine if Tinwood’s application for helipad expansion will be heard.  In the current economic recession, it is simply inexcusable that the County Board of Commissioners take any action to inhibit growth in the local tourist industry.

Here’s hoping that Board of County Commissioners and Mayor Jacobs start the year off right, by getting needless bureaucracy out of the way so the tourist industry can grow.

[1] “Total visitation to Orlando that combines domestic and international arrivals are expected to increase 3.7 percent, from 51.5 million visitors in 2010 to an estimated 53.4 million in 2011, and increase 1.8 percent in 2012 to an estimated 54.3 million visitors.” http://www.visitorlando.com/research/visitors/forecast.cfm (Access date December 10, 2011).
[2] Jason Garcia, Push for South Florida casinos splits Orlando’s tourism industry: Convention hotels vs. Disney World, Orlando Sentinel. October, 14 2011 http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/business_tourism_aviation/ (Access date December 10, 2011).

What happens to a civil complaint where the opposing party cannot be served?  Such is often the case is divorces, what we call a “dissolution of marriage” action here in Florida, where the party seeking the divorce often has not had contact with the opposing party and may even be unaware of their whereabouts.  The answer is found in a form of service of process known as “constructive” service.

In order for a court to obtain jurisdiction over dissolution of marriage cases, proper service of process must be made upon the respondent.  Dissolutions of marriage are actions in rem, and thus the res of the action over which the court asserts jurisdiction is the marriage itself.  Therefore the court does not need personal jurisdiction over the respondent to dissolve a marriage; the court merely requires jurisdiction over the marriage itself, or one of the parties to the marriage (the petitioner).

Although the court needs no personal jurisdiction over the respondent, service of process upon the respondent is still required in order that the court to obtain a valid judgment over the res of the action.  In cases where the respondent cannot be found, and substituted service of process[1] cannot be made on an appropriate party, it is still possible to effect constructive service upon the respondent by means of service by publication.  Service by publication can only be had for proceedings in rem.[2]

An affidavit of diligent search and inquiry is a “condition precedent to service by publication.”[3] Diligent search and inquiry is essential to any attempt at constructive service.[4] The last known address of the defending party must be contained within the affidavit.  But what exactly constitutes a “diligent search and inquiry” with respect to service of process?  The answer is not as clear as one might like it to be, and as I will go on to show, this lack of clarity can be quite problematic when it comes to ensuring due process for respondents.

[1] “Substituted service and constructive service have not always been distinguished by the courts.” Trawick’s Florida Rules and Practice, Section 8:19, at page 165

[2] Id.

[3] Florida’s Statute Title VI, Chapter 49.031

[4] Trawick’s, supra N1, at page 169