The Florida Supreme Court has sided with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in his legal battle with former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel.
The high court issued a ruling Tuesday affirming the constitutionality of DeSantis’ Jan. 11 executive order suspending Israel from his position as Broward County Sheriff.
A lawsuit filed by the ousted law enforcement officer alleged the order, which cited Israel’s “neglect of duty and incompetence” in his handling of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018 in Parkland, was “an affront to the Florida Constitution” and failed to identify a violation of mandatory duty that would justify his removal from office.
The opinion authored by Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Lagoa held DeSantis’ executive order met the requirements established in the Florida Constitution for the suspension of public officials.
“A review of Executive Order 19-14 shows that it articulates factual allegations that bear a reasonable relation to the grounds of neglect of duty and incompetence as those terms are understood in their usual and ordinary meaning,” Lagoa wrote.
The order also cited its recent ruling concerning another suspended public official, former Okaloosa County School Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson, and her own lawsuit against DeSantis. In doing so, the court reiterated it has a “limited role in reviewing the exercise of the suspension power, which the Constitution commits to the governor and which inherently involves ‘judgment and discretion.’ ”
“ Assuming that the office of the suspended officer falls under one of the constitutionally enumerated categories and the governor has filed the executive order of suspension with the custodian of records, the plain language of the Constitution excludes the judiciary from involving itself in the suspension and removal process, save for a limited exception,” the opinion said.
Read the Florida Supreme Court’s order:
Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga concurred in result only.
“I write to emphasize that our review of these matters is not pro forma,” the former chief justice wrote. “Indeed, executive orders suspending officials … must allege specific, detailed facts which support and allow for meaningful review by the Senate. This requirement, in my view, is of paramount importance when the official in question was duly elected by the voters.”
“The allegations must, however, identify the specific instances of alleged misconduct with sufficient detail to facilitate meaningful review by the Senate, by this court when applicable, and to allow the official to mount a defense,” Labarga added. “An executive order which presents only general or conclusory allegations will not suffice. This is not a demanding standard, but it is nonetheless a substantive requirement imposed by the Florida Constitution, and this court is obligated to vacate any suspension which does not satisfy it.”
The Florida Supreme Court’s order upholds the initial dismissal of Israel’s lawsuit by Broward Circuit Judge David Haimes.
Requests for comment from Israel’s attorney, Benedict “Ben” Kuehne, and the governor’s office were not returned by press time.