SPLC sues DeSantis over suspension of State Attorney Monique Worrell

by | Dec 1, 2023

  • The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has filed a lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for suspending State Attorney Monique Worrell, alleging that this act disenfranchised over 395,000 voters who elected her. 
  • The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Florida voters and the grassroots organization Florida Rising, seeks Worrell’s reinstatement.
  • Governor DeSantis cited “neglect of duty” and “incompetence” in his 15-page executive order suspending Worrell, referencing her handling of various criminal cases and her approach to minimum mandatory sentences.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of State Attorney Monique Worrell.

The complaint, representing Florida voters and Florida Rising, a grassroots organization, was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, and argues that the governor’s action disenfranchised more than 395,000 voters who elected Worrell, undermining electoral integrity and fairness. The lawsuit seeks to reinstate Worrell to her position.

Plaintiffs, including Orlando resident David Caicedo and central Florida resident Rajib Chowdhury, contend in the filing that their voting rights were violated by the governor’s suspension of Worrell, accusing him of executive overreach and political manipulation, pointing to Worrell’s November 2020 election victory that allowed her to assume the role in the first place.

“From the beginning of Ms. Worrell’s term in office, for political and ideological reasons, Governor DeSantis was resistant to accepting the will of the voters and hostile toward Ms. Worrell’s reform agenda,” reads the complaint. “In the aftermath of Ms. Worrell’s election, Governor DeSantis expressed his strong opposition to her policies, launched investigations into her prosecutorial decisions, and used the bully pulpit of the governorship to distort her record on combating crime.”

Worrell’s August suspension followed criticisms against her handling of several high-profile criminal cases, including her approach towards minimum mandatory sentences for gun crimes, drug trafficking, and other serious offenses. Most recently, she was under fire due to her office’s perceived leniency towards Daton Viel during a previous criminal case, who was later involved in the shooting of two Orlando police officers.

In her defense, Worrell stated that the bond determination was the court’s responsibility, not hers.

“I don’t determine who gets out of jail. All I do is uphold the law,” she said. Worrell has continually expressed that the blame should rest with the individual perpetrators of crimes and not the legal decisions that preceded them.

DeSantis’ executive order suspending Worrell ran 15 pages, not including supporting exhibits. In it, DeSantis cited “neglect of duty” and “incompetence” as the basis for Worrell’s suspension. He then went on to list a range of incidents that he asserted supported 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.”

The order also noted that Worrell established a pattern or practice to avoid minimum mandatory sentences for gun crimes, drug trafficking offenses, allowing juvenile offenders to avoid serious charges and incarceration altogether, avoiding valid or applicable sentencing enhancements, and limiting charges for child pornography.

It is the second time in a year that DeSantis has removed an elected state attorney from office. In August 2022, he suspended Andrew Warren, the top prosecutor in Tampa, who had vowed in a signed statement that he wouldn’t enforce Florida abortion restrictions. Warren challenged his suspension in both federal and state lawsuits, but the courts have ruled against him at both levels.


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