Florida Governor Suspends Orlando-Area State Attorney for “Neglect of Duty and Incompetence”
The Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, has announced the suspension of Monique Worrell, the state attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit. This is the second time that DeSantis has removed a democratically elected prosecutor whose political beliefs differ from his conservative views. According to DeSantis, Worrell is being suspended for “neglect of duty and incompetence,” as he accuses her of pursuing lenient sentences and failing to prosecute certain charges.
“Prosecutors have a duty to faithfully enforce the law. One’s political agenda cannot override this solemn duty. Refusing to faithfully enforce the laws of Florida puts our communities in danger and victimizes innocent Floridians,” DeSantis stated.
Controversy Surrounding DeSantis’ Actions
This move by DeSantis has drawn criticisms similar to those raised when he controversially removed another Democratic state attorney, Andrew Warren, from Tampa. At the time, Democrats accused DeSantis of abusing his power for political gain. A federal judge reviewing Warren’s suspension also questioned the political motivations behind DeSantis’ actions, highlighting how his office had calculated the amount of free media coverage that he gained from the move.
However, despite the controversy, these actions against state attorneys have garnered positive coverage from conservative outlets, with DeSantis using them as examples in his political speeches for his White House bid.
National Spotlight on DeSantis
DeSantis’ suspension of Worrell has once again brought the national spotlight upon him. By the time DeSantis made the announcement, Fox News had already published a story on his latest maneuver. During the news conference, DeSantis was joined by two local sheriffs who praised him as a law and order leader, even though neither of them serves a county that overlaps with Worrell’s jurisdiction.
The Florida constitution allows the governor to remove an elected official for various reasons, including “neglect of duty” and “incompetence.” However, no previous Florida executive has interpreted their power as broadly as DeSantis. Although the state Senate has the power to reinstate Worrell, it is unlikely as they are controlled by Republicans closely aligned with DeSantis.
Criticism of DeSantis’ Leadership
DeSantis’ actions have drawn criticism for conflicting with his promise to reign in government overreach. Despite criticizing President Joe Biden for what he sees as the “weaponization” of the US Department of Justice, DeSantis himself has been accused of pursuing a political agenda and targeting former President Donald Trump.
Worrell’s Background and Election
Monique Worrell, the suspended state attorney, previously worked as a public defender in the Orlando area and as a clinical law professor. In 2020, she won a contested Democratic primary and was elected with 66% of the vote in a heavily Democratic area. Her bio stated that she was elected to bring reform to the criminal justice system in order to achieve equity and justice.
Worrell replaced another reform prosecutor, Aramis Ayala, whose approach conflicted with the Republican leadership in the state. When Ayala announced that she would not pursue capital punishment in any cases, then-Governor Rick Scott moved death penalty cases to another state attorney but did not suspend Ayala from office.
Immediate Reinstatement Demanded
The Florida Democratic Party chairwoman, Nikki Fried, has called Worrell’s suspension a “political hit job” that threatens democracy. Fried has demanded Worrell’s immediate reinstatement and stated that DeSantis is attacking law and order in service of his culture wars.
DeSantis has replaced Worrell with Andrew Bain, who previously served as a judge on the 9th Judicial Circuit. DeSantis left the news conference without taking any questions from reporters.