Florida Supreme Court upholds suspension of State Attorney Monique Worrell by Gov. Ron DeSantis

by | Jun 6, 2024

The Florida Supreme Court upheld Gov. Ron DeSantis’s suspension of State Attorney Monique Worrell on Thursday, citing constitutional grounds and detailed allegations of neglect and incompetence in prosecutorial practices, despite a dissent.

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the suspension of Monique Worrell, the State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Worrell had petitioned the court to overturn her suspension, which was issued in August 2023.

DeSantis suspended Worrell via Executive, citing allegations that she failed in her duties by allowing prosecutorial practices that let violent offenders and drug traffickers avoid mandatory sentences. The Executive Order detailed that under Worrell’s leadership, the Ninth Judicial Circuit often failed to pursue minimum mandatory sentences and sentencing enhancements, including in cases involving gun crimes and child pornography.

The court’s majority opinion stated that the Executive Order met constitutional requirements by specifying the grounds for suspension—neglect of duty and incompetence—and providing factual allegations related to these charges. The justices emphasized that their role was to ensure the procedural adequacy of the suspension order, not to assess the sufficiency of the evidence, which is the responsibility of the Florida Senate.

“We cannot agree with Worrell that the allegations in the Executive Order are impermissibly vague, nor that they address conduct that falls within the lawful exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” the Court’s order states.

Justice Jorge Labarga dissented, arguing that the allegations lacked sufficient detail to allow Worrell to mount a proper defense. He highlighted the difference in due process for officials subject to suspension compared to those facing impeachment, stressing the need for clear and detailed allegations in suspension orders.

“The suspension of a duly elected constitutional officer must be viewed as an enormous undertaking that requires clear justification,” Labarga wrote.

Justice Renatha Francis, in a concurring opinion, suggested the court reconsider its approach to reviewing suspension cases, advocating for a stricter adherence to the constitution and considering the political question doctrine.

Worrell, elected with over 65 percent of the vote in 2020, remains suspended unless reinstated by the governor or the Florida Senate, which will evaluate the evidence against her.


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