Case Challenging Fla. Gov.’s Authority to Suspend Incompetent Sheriff Gets Fast-Tracked

The court ‘has recognized my authority as governor to suspend him for neglect of duty and incompetence and this appeal is just his latest delay tactic…’

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Scott Israel/IMAGE: YouTube

(Anthony Man, Sun Sentinel) The argument over whether Gov. Ron DeSantis had the legal authority to suspend Broward Sheriff Scott Israel is going directly to the Florida Supreme Court.

DeSantis soundly criticized Israel for his failed response to the shooting in Parkland on Feb. 14 last year.

There won’t be an intermediate stop at the appeals court after the 4th District Court of Appeal on Wednesday certified the case as a matter “of great public importance.”

The issue stems from a lawsuit Israel filed challenging DeSantis’s authority to remove the sheriff from office.

Israel’s attorneys, Benedict Kuehne and Stuart Kaplan, said their client welcomes the opportunity to get a definitive ruling from the state’s high court.

“The recognition of this case as presenting issues of great public importance is precisely what Sheriff Israel has maintained throughout this litigation,” Kuehne and Kaplan said in a statement. “This case presents an important constitutional question testing the very limits of the governor’s suspension power when used to challenge discretionary decisions by an elected constitutional officer like Sheriff Israel.”

On Thursday, Broward Circuit Judge David Haimes upheld DeSantis’ use of his executive authority.

On Friday, Israel’s attorney’s filed a notice that they intended to appeal the circuit judge’s ruling.

DeSantis’ response: “Scott Israel continues to live in denial.” The governor added that the circuit court “has recognized my authority as governor to suspend him for neglect of duty and incompetence and this appeal is just his latest delay tactic.”

The governor asked the appellate court to move the case to the state Supreme Court, which is what the appeals court did on Tuesday.

The Florida Constitution gives the Florida Senate the authority to rule on gubernatorial suspensions. The Senate has put off action on the Israel case until all court proceedings are complete.

Israel came under criticism after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

DeSantis suspended Israel in January, saying that lessons that should have been learned from the 2017 shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport never were implemented, leading to a disorganized response in Parkland that cost lives and eroded trust in the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

(c)2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.