- Florida State Attorney Monique H. Worrell was suspended by Governor Ron DeSantis, leading to a clash between Democrats and DeSantis over executive authority and judicial independence.
- The suspension followed allegations of mishandling high-profile criminal cases, including leniency towards violent offenders, drug traffickers, and serious-juvenile offenders in her approach to mandatory sentences.
- Democrats criticized the suspension as undermining democracy and silencing voters’ voices, while Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, supported it, citing concerns about crime and accountability.
In resolute response to the suspension of State Attorney Monique H. Worrell by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, swaths of Florida Democrats have isued a wave of pushback, signaling a contentious battle at the intersection of executive authority and judicial independence.
The suspension, a move that has sent shockwaves through the state’s political landscape, follows allegations and criticisms against the manner in which Worrell, who was elected in 2020, handled several high-profile criminal cases, including her approach towards minimum mandatory sentences for gun crimes, drug trafficking, and other serious offenses.
In her responses to such criticisms, Worrell maintained her office’s dedication to upholding the law. She expressed concern about the politicization of tragic events and emphasized the importance of distinguishing between arrests and convictions.
The Executive Order suspending Worrell spanned 15 pages, not including supporting exhibits. In it, DeSantis cites “neglect of duty” and “incompetence” as the basis for Worrell’s suspension. The governor additionally outlined a number of instances that he claimed support the suspension, including allegations that she “systematically permitted violent offenders, drug traffickers, serious-juvenile offenders, and pedophiles to evade incarceration, when otherwise warranted under Florida law.”
In a subsequent late-morning press conference, Worrell verbally maintained her authority, stating “I am your duly elected state attorney for the ninth Judicial Circuit, and nothing done by a weak dictator can change that.”
Following the news break, Christopher Cann of the Orlando Sentinel reported that Worrell’s upper-level management has been fired. Her staff was barred from entering the office in downtown Orlando today.
Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell echoed the sentiment, joining the ousted State Attorney in falling back on electoral results. In her general election race, Worrell received more than 65 percent of the vote.
“In 2020, Monique Worrell was elected overwhelmingly by her community as state attorney,” said Driskell. “The people of Orange and Osceola Counties chose her to represent their interests and principles. They did not need Ron DeSantis to throw out their vote and install someone who does not share their values. This is not democracy, but it is Florida today, sadly.”
Andrew Warren, the former Hillsborough County State Attorney that was also suspended by DeSantis last year, joined cries of autocracy, referring to the suspension as illegal and unconstitutional.
“Another illegal and unconstitutional attack on democracy by a small, scared man who is desperate to save his political career. He wants to be a bully, but he’s actually a coward who has repeatedly violated the rule of law and the will of the voters to cover up his own weakness.”
The Capitolist interviewed Warren upon his suspension last year, where he referred to his removal as a political stunt, claiming that it’s being used to prop up DeSantis’ Presidential ambitions for 2024.
U.S. Rep. Alejandro Maxwell Frost also factored the governor’s faltering presidential run.
“This removal of an elected official is much deeper than Gov. DeSantis not doing well in his Presidential bid and trying to find some steam,” said Frost. “He has actively been subverting democracy and disenfranchising voters to consolidate power for him and his cronies. A hostile takeover.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Michelle Raynor, a lawyer herself, levies that DeSantis is silencing the vote of the people in the 9th Circuit. To replace Worrell, DeSantis appointed Judge Andrew Bain, an Orlando native, as the new State Attorney.
“Governor DeSantis’s actions send a chilling message that his personal political agenda takes precedence over the voices and choices of the voters,” Raynor said. “By removing Monique Worrell without just cause, the Governor has effectively silenced the voices of Circuit 9 residents who saw in her a champion of justice, equality, and fairness.”
On the other side of the political spectrum, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott applauded the suspension, calling it “the right move.”
“Democrats’ soft-on-crime policies are eroding our communities and families’ ability to feel safe,” said Scott. “In February, I called on SA Monique Worrell to deliver the justice and accountability needed for the families affected by shootings in her district and said her suspension would be fully justified. She failed to do her job. Families deserve better.”