TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Suspended State Attorney Monique Worrell filed a lawsuit today asking the Florida Supreme Court to overrule Governor DeSantis’ actions to remove her from office in August.
Worrell was the top prosecutor in the Ninth Judicial Circuit for the Orange and Osceola County region and the second Soros-backed state attorney removed from office by DeSantis.
“NEGLECT OF DUTY” AND “INCOMPETENCE”
In the lawsuit, Worrell suggests the governor searched for reasons to suspend her and provided a vague list of justifications unrelated to her ability to perform her job.
“The Executive Order purports to remove Ms. Worrell for ‘neglect of duty’ and ‘incompetence’ but fails to allege facts that, even if true, would relate to any neglect of duty or incompetence,” the lawsuit reads. “This Court should, therefore, declare the Order invalid.”
In August, the governor’s office detailed ten specific cases that motivated Worrell’s suspension. Several resulted in tragic consequences where dangerous criminals were allowed to roam free despite prior felonies, causing additional murder and mayhem.
Two of the most heinous crimes the perpetrators were able to commit – involving young men murdering their partners – were direct results of Worrell’s failure to prosecute, according to the governor.
After a triple homicide in February, Worrell speculated that DeSantis was looking for reasons to suspend her, accusing the governor of conducting a “witch hunt.” When two Orlando police officers were shot by criminals who had previously been arrested but never faced prosecution, DeSantis issued an executive order suspending Worrell.
According to Worrell’s lawsuit, DeSantis failed to show a pattern of her unwillingness to enforce the law. She contends that her case is different from former Hillsborough County state attorney Andrew Warren or Aramis Ayala – who former Governor Rick Scott removed in 2017 after she refused to seek the death penalty in multiple first-degree murder cases.
“Unlike the executive orders at issue in Warren and Ayala, the Governor has not alleged any practice or policy that could constitute a refusal to exercise prosecutorial discretion,” the lawsuit reads.
“Unable even to identify any ‘practices or policies’ of Ms. Worrell, the Executive Order instead attempts to infer that she has adopted practices or policies that result in reduced incarceration rates by comparing incarceration rate data from the Ninth Judicial Circuit to that of other Florida judicial circuits,” the lawsuit continued. “Such data, even if accurate, reflects a host of factors unrelated to the practices or policies of the state attorney and thus cannot be relied on to demonstrate that Ms. Worrell has practices or policies that result in lower incarceration rates.”
While Worrell suggests that Governor DeSantis overstepped his authority, it will be up to the Florida Supreme Court to decide if they will hear her case. The Florida Constitution gives the Senate the exclusive responsibility to judge the merits of an executive suspension. But under Senate rules, the process is postponed until all court challenges and appeals have played out.
“Should Ms. Worrell choose to challenge the suspension order in court, the Senate process will be held in abeyance and the matter will not be considered by the Senate until final determination of a court challenge and the exhaustion of all appellate remedies, as required by Senate Rule 12.9,” Senate President Kathleen Passidomo wrote in a memo to state senators on August 9.
“As I have mentioned previously, since we are tasked by Florida’s Constitution to sit in judgment of the merits of a suspension, in my view, Senators should refrain from speaking publicly about the merits or substance of any executive suspension,” Passidomo added.