Less than a week after a circuit judge ruled against suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, the battle over the sheriff’s removal from office is being fast-tracked to the Florida Supreme Court. The 4th District Court of Appeal, going along with a request from Gov. Ron DeSantis, issued a one-page order Tuesday that said it was forwarding the case to the Supreme Court — a move known as “certifying” the case.
The South Florida appeals court said it was certifying the case as “one which requires immediate resolution by the Florida Supreme Court because the issues pending in this District Court of Appeal are of great public importance.” Shortly after taking office in January, DeSantis suspended Israel, accusing the sheriff of “neglect of duty” and “incompetence” related to two mass shootings in Broward County, including the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Israel, a Democrat, appealed his suspension to the Florida Senate, which has the authority to reinstate or remove elected officials.
But that case was put on hold when Israel asked a Broward County judge to determine whether DeSantis lacked the power to strip the elected official of his post. Circuit Judge David Haimes on Thursday sided with DeSantis, prompting Israel to go to the 4th District Court of Appeal. DeSantis asked that the dispute be moved quickly to the Supreme Court, essentially bypassing the usual process of getting a ruling from the appellate court. Israel’s attorneys issued a statement Tuesday saying he “welcomes the opportunity to obtain a definitive ruling” from the Supreme Court.
“The recognition of this case as presenting issues of great public importance is precisely what Sheriff Israel has maintained throughout this litigation,” the lawyers, Benedict P Kuehne and Stuart Kaplan, said in the 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.” The Senate case remains on hold amid the court fight.