Scott Israel appeals judge’s order upholding governor’s suspension of sheriff

Suspended Broward Sheriff Scott Israel’s attorneys filed an appeal Friday of a judge’s ruling that Gov. Ron DeSantis had the legal authority to remove him from office earlier this year.

Broward Circuit Judge David Haimes did not indicate whether he agreed with the governor in his Thursday ruling, but he affirmed that DeSantis was legally justified when he replaced Israel with acting Sheriff Gregory Tony in January.

The four-sentence notice of appeal, filed Friday morning, doesn’t specify grounds for the appeal. It simply states that Israel is appealing and attaches a copy of Haimes’ order.

One result is that action on Israel in the Florida Senate won’t happen before the annual legislative session’s scheduled May 3 adjournment. The Senate, which must vote on DeSantis’ suspension, has halted any action until court challenges by Israel are completed.

In a memo to senators Thursday afternoon, Senate President Bill Galvano reminded them that “the matter is in abeyance until all appeals are exhausted or have been definitively taken off the table.”

Israel came under criticism after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. In suspending him, DeSantis said 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.

Israel wanted Haimes to declare that DeSantis had overstepped his authority.

With the judge’s decision, Israel’s most likely hope of returning to office before 2020 rests with the Republican-led Florida Senate, which can overturn or affirm the Repuplican governor’s decision. Otherwise, Israel said he’ll leave it up to the county’s voters by running for re-election.

On Thursday, one of Israel’s attorneys, Ben Kuehne, said an appeal was coming.

“We appreciate the judge’s diligence, but believe that this constitutional matter requires more evaluation by the appellate court,” he said. “It is our strong intention that this matter needs to be reviewed by the appellate court.

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