How Hala Helps Clients
With 35 years of appellate experience, Hala Sandridge has produced some of Florida’s most significant appellate decisions, including cases certified by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to the Florida Supreme Court and in the United States Supreme Court. She focuses on all facets of civil appeals and has directly handled hundreds of appeals in both state and federal appellate courts. Hala is one of the original Florida Bar Board Certified Attorneys in Appellate Practice (1994). She is the chair of the firm's Appellate Practice Group, co-head of the firm’s Tampa office and a past member of Buchanan’s Board of Directors.
Hala is a strong leader in the legal and business community, including serving as the immediate past president of The Florida Bar Foundation and past chair of The Florida Bar Appellate Practice Section. Governor DeSantis recently re-appointed her to the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. In 2019, the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court appointed Hala to the IOTA Task force to examine the use of IOTA funds used to provide legal services to the poor. She was also named a 2019 Business Woman of the Year by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. Hala currently serves as President of the University Club of Tampa, only the sixth woman to hold that title in its 75-year history.
Hala is recognized for her expertise in land use appeals - from local jurisdictions to the United States Supreme Court. She has garnered astonishing results for property owners fighting local governments that seek to deprive them of valid land uses. In 2023, Hala mediated a Bert Harris Act dispute for her developer client. The local government purchased her client’s property for $32.5 million - $10 million above her Bert Harris Act demand. Hala obtained a 2019 court order enforcing an annexation agreement against a local government, along with a multi-million dollar award against that local government, including attorney’s fees. In 2018, she successfully appealed a Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners’ rezoning denial, creating such favorable law, the decision is now frequently cited by landowners. In 2014, the appellate court agreed with Hala that a Florida statute afforded limited standing to third parties to challenge a developer’s rezoning. In fact, Hala went on to win six appeals for that developer client filed by neighbors and competitors seeking to stop the 884-acre development.
Hala has years of experience litigating sovereign immunity issues for her government clients. Early in 1996, she convinced the Fifth District (which decision was affirmed by the Florida Supreme Court) that because Florida’s statutory tort waiver applied only to claims for personal injury, property damages, or death, purely economic tort claims against the State and its agencies are barred. Since that time, Hala has been deeply involved helping her government clients - including hospitals, state agencies, municipalities and higher education - attain victories based on a rigorous adherence to the limited sovereign immunity waiver.
Hala routinely serves as appellate counsel against multi-million dollar jury verdicts with weighty legal issues, such as the 2013 reversal of one of Florida’s largest jury verdicts at that time - $940 million and the 2020 reversal of a $109 million verdict. She is also skilled in assisting post-verdict to reduce runaway jury verdicts, including a recent remittitur of a $30 million verdict to $9 million. Hala attributes these victories to ensuring her briefs focus on solid legal issues, while avoiding fact disputes with the attendant standard of appellate review likely to be unsuccessful on appeal.
As a strong supporter of pro bono legal services, Hala has spent countless hours providing free appellate legal services to low-income populations and has championed their cause through her participation in local and statewide legal aid organizations. She was also instrumental in creating the courthouse assistance project at the Hillsborough County Courthouse, which assists pro se litigants in navigating the court system and has garnered statewide praise. Hala served as the 2019-2020 President of the Florida Bar Foundation, a statewide public charity that provides funding for legal aid and improvements in the administration of justice. She recently handled two pro bono appeals for the statewide guardian ad litem program, reaching successful conclusions for her foster care clients.
Hala is a frequent lecturer and moderator on trending appellate topics, post-trial motions, state and federal appellate rules and procedure, appellate jurisdiction and preserving error for appeal, among others and often speaks to in-house counsel, trial lawyers and law students. She has taught sections of the Florida board certification review class for appellate practice. In addition to her speaking engagements, Hala has authored many appellate articles for law reviews, handbooks, legal periodicals and newsletters on a wide-range of appellate topics. Additionally, she is a past chair of the Appellate Practice Section of the Florida Bar, a tribute to her leadership in her practice area.
Every appeal tells a story, no matter how technical the subject matter. Who doesn’t enjoy a good story? Appellate judges are no different.
What Clients Can Expect
Hala is supremely skilled at distilling and analyzing complex legal matters and employing creative ways to identify public policy reasons to bolster the correctness of her appellate position. Her clients appreciate that she is willing to take on decisions she believes courts have incorrectly reached and explain – against what are seemingly long odds – why courts should correct what was previously misinterpreted.
Outside the Office
Hala enjoys spending her free time hiking with her husband and two adult sons in the Colorado mountains.
- 2022 Judge Don Castor Justice Award, Bay Area Legal Services
- 2019 Business Woman of the Year by the Tampa Bay Business Journal
- Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award
- The Hillsborough County Jimmy Kynes Pro Bono Award
- Bay Area Legal Service’s Distinguished Pro Bono Advocate Award
- AV® Preeminent distinction, from Martindale-Hubbell’s Peer Review Ratings
- The Best Lawyers in America® since 2008 in the category of Appellate Practice
- Chambers USA, leading Appellate lawyer in Florida since 2006.
- Florida Super Lawyers since 2006
- Top 10: Florida Super Lawyers 2023
- Top 50:Tampa Bay Super Lawyers® list since 2022
- Top 50 Female Lawyers since 2007
- Top 100 Florida Lawyers since 2011
- Florida Trend's Legal Elite from 2005-2008, 2013-2016, 2019 - 2022; included in the Legal Elite Hall of Fame for 2020-2022.
- Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of S. Fla. v. Carter, 298 So. 3d 94 (Fla. 2d DCA 2020). Overturned $109,000,000 jury verdict based on exclusion of exculpatory evidence.
- WCI Communities, LLC et al v. City of Bonita Springs, Twentieth Judicial Circuit Court, Lee County Florida, Case No.: 17-CA-3966 (October 2019). Obtained order requiring city to grant agreed-to rezoning in annexation agreement and awarding national homebuilder $6.3 million for City’s breach of annexation agreement.
- Gerelco Traffic Controls, Inc. v. Ming, No. 2D18-3701 (Fla. 2d DCA 2019). Affirmed order remitting excessive $30 million jury verdict to $9 million because non-economic damage award resulted from jury sympathy.
- Trans Healthcare, Inc. v. Webb, 132 So. 3d 1152 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013). Reversed $900,000,000 personal injury jury verdict.
- Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, 130 S.Ct. 2592 (2010). Affirmed Florida Supreme Court, finding Florida did not unconstitutionally take property rights through enforcement of the State's Beach and Shore Preservation Act.
Florida State University College of Law, J.D., 1984, with honors; Law Review; Intern, Florida Supreme Court, the Honorable Leander Shaw
University of Florida, B.A., 1981
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
- U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida
- U.S. Supreme Court
Gubernatorial Appointee to the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, 2014-2020
The Florida Bar: Appellate Practice Section, Executive Council, 2007-2020; Chair, 2001-2002; Chair Elect, 2000-2001; Vice Chair, 1999-2000; Secretary, 1998-1999; Treasurer, 1997-1998; Record Editor, 1995-1997
The Florida Bar Foundation: President, 2019-2020, Vice President, 2017; Director, 2011-present; Fellow
The Litigation Counsel of America: Senior Fellow
Florida Supreme Court Historical Society, Board of Trustees
University Club of Tampa, President, 2020-2021; Board of Directors, 2014-present
Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors, 2014; Leadership Tampa, Class of 2006
Bay Area Legal Services, BALSA Review Committee, 1997-present
Berkeley Preparatory School: Board of Trustees, Secretary; Shades of Blue Co-Chair, 2008-2009; Annual Fund Chair, 2009-2010; Development Chair, 2010-2014; Board Secretary, 2011-2012
United Way: Keel Club; Women's Leadership; 2010 Fowler White Boggs P.A. Campaign Co-Chair