Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has prevailed in the lawsuit filed by former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel (D), successfully convincing a Broward County Circuit Court judge to dismiss the case Israel filed claiming he had been wrongfully suspended from his position.
After the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida left 17 students and teachers dead and another 17 injured, many were outraged to learn of decisions made by the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) that potentially could have prevented the tragedy.
Among the most egregious issues were the multiple Broward deputies (including Scot Peterson, the school resource officer assigned to MSD) who waited outside the school building while the shooting was taking place, Israel’s own decision to change his department policy to say that deputies “may” engage active shooters instead of “shall,” significant communication problems on the day of the shooting, and dozens of warnings about the shooter making threats and committing acts of violence to which BSO failed to take action. Peterson did not help matters with his comments to reporters that he had exhibited “amazing” leadership and denying any problems.
On January 11, a few days after being sworn into office, DeSantis issued an executive order suspending Israel, citing neglect of duty and incompetence.
On March 7, Israel filed a lawsuit against DeSantis in his official capacity as Governor, claiming that he had exceeded his legal authority under the Florida Constitution and failed to “demonstrate sufficient jurisdictional grounds for the suspension.”
DeSantis responded with a Motion to Dismiss, citing Florida legal precedent that as long as he meets the jurisdictional requirements set forth in the state constitution, a governor’s decision to suspend a county elected official like Israel cannot be reviewed by the courts.
Broward Circuit Court Judge David Haime agreed with DeSantis’ argument and issued a short and simple three-sentence Final Order of Dismissal and Order Granting Motion to Dismiss today.
Theoretically, Israel can appeal this dismissal of his lawsuit, and he vowed to do so in a statement released to reporters by his attorney, but it is extremely rare for an appellate court to overturn such an order. Without getting too far into the legal weeds, Israel would pretty much have to argue that Judge Haime applied the entirely wrong law or some similarly substantial mistake in his judgment.
In the meantime, the legal status of the case is that DeSantis’ suspension of Israel stands, and the replacement he appointed, Sheriff Gregory Tony, will remain in office.
In response to the court victory, DeSantis tweeted he was “pleased” about the ruling and that he had sent a letter to the Florida Senate requesting that they move forward with formally removing him from office.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.