Citing the "substantial likelihood" that Odebrecht Construction Inc. would prevail in its court action against the state of Florida's new law barring the awarding of contracts to firms with business ties to Cuba, U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore on June 25 issued a preliminary injunction preventing the measure from going into effect on July 1.

Image courtesy Odebrecht Construction
Odebrecht Construction is moving forward on its $800-million Airport City development project at Miami International Airport.

In the latest development in the case of Odebrecht Construction Inc. v. Ananth Prasad, Judge Moore ruled that the Coral Gables, Fla.-based firm “demonstrated a substantial likelihood” of succeeding with its argument that the new Florida law conflicts with federal law and thereby violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

Additionally, the judge held that Odebrecht proved it could be harmed by the law if it was left in effect, and that the Florida Dept. of Transportation—headed by Ananth Prasad, the suit’s defendant—would not experience substantial damage by an injunction.

“Defendant Ananth Prasad … (is) hereby enjoined from implementing or enforcing in any way the amendment,” the judge stated. Moore specified that DOT could not require companies to supply certification related to their business operations in Cuba, and could not in any way “prohibit the award or renewal of public contracts based on whether companies have business operations in Cuba.”

Signed into law on May 1 by Gov. Rick Scott (R), the law would prevent any state or local governmental agency from awarding or renewing contracts valued at more than $1 million to any firm that had done business in Cuba or Syria. The company had indicated in its initial court filing that it is currently pursuing future FDOT contracts valued at more than $3.4 billion, including the $2.1-billion reconstruction of Interstate 4 in Orlando, and the $870-million Interstate 75 managed-lanes project in Miami-Dade County.

Odebrecht had cited as precedent a 2000 case where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a Massachusetts law violated federal law by implementing similar sanctions against firms doing business in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

In issuing the injunction, Moore also apparently favored Odebrecht’s argument that federal law does not allow a state to take such action against Cuba—as it does for Iran and Sudan—and that the Florida law was therefore “inoperative on its own terms.” When the company filed the motion in May, it quoted the statute’s language, which states, in part, that the new law would become inoperable “on the date that federal law ceases to authorize the states to adopt and enforce the contracting prohibitions of the type provided.”

Odebrecht issued a statement on the issuance of a preliminary injunction, that read in part: “Odebrecht USA is very gratified by the court's ruling, and the court's agreement with our legal position. We will continue to defend our right to serve the state of Florida and its local governments.”