Florida Supreme Court Rules Governor Had Authority To Suspend Broward Sheriff
Broward County, FL – The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday smacked down the disgraced former Broward sheriff’s appeal and said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was well within his constitutional authority when he suspended Scott Israel.
The justices rejected former Sheriff Israel’s appeal but noted "the Constitution itself has set up its own special court to try the matter, namely the state Senate,” WPLG reported.
The governor’s office released a celebratory statement on Tuesday that said the opinion left no doubt that a governor has the authority to suspend a government official for neglect of duty or incompetence.
"Israel failed in his duties to protect the families and students of Broward County and the time for delay tactics is at an end," DeSantis said. "I look forward to the Florida Senate resuming the process of formal removal."
Stuart Kaplan, attorney for the former Sheriff Israel, had argued the newly-elected governor did not have the authority to suspend the sheriff for things that happened before he was elected, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Just a few days after he was sworn into office, DeSantis announced the suspension of then-Sheriff Israel and introduced his replacement.
Critics had been demanding that the sheriff be removed since his department’s grossly inept handling of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and the active shooter at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
Sheriff Israel became the subject of intense criticism after it was discovered that members of the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) failed to respond to the active shooter in accordance with modern law enforcement training.
An investigation conducted by a special commission established by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, at the request of former Governor Rick Scott, determined that multiple BSO deputies had failed to make any attempt to stop the shooter as they listened to him shoot 34 students and staff.
Seventeen people were killed as a result of the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre.
The governor refused to go into detail about Sheriff Israel suspension when he made the announcement.
“I have no interest in dancing on Scott Israel’s political grave,” DeSantis said at the time. “Just suffice it to say that the massacre might never have happened had Broward had better leadership in the sheriff’s department.”
He told reporters he didn’t want to detail the “neglect and incompetence” of Sheriff Israel’s administration.
“We lay it out in the suspension order – and I don’t have the inclination to rehash his failings,” DeSantis said.
The Florida State Senate could potentially intervene on the former sheriff’s behalf, but that outcome is not anticipated.
Most believe his only shot at returning to office would be a re-election by the voters in 2020.
After he was suspended, Israel argued DeSantis had been politically motivated and usurped the will of Broward County voters, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
Broward Circuit Judge David Haimes heard arguments from both sides earlier in April and ruled for the governor, prompting the appeal to the state supreme court that was placed on a fast track.
The court ruled that the bar was low for DeSantis to justifiably remove an official from office, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The governor only needed to establish that he could cite clear allegations of neglect of duty or misconduct, the court ruled.
Former Sheriff Israel has only until the end of the legislative session on May 3 to fight his suspension before the end of the calendar year, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The former Broward sheriff has repeatedly said he planned to run for re-election in 2020.