Florida Supreme Court upholds Gov. DeSantis suspension of Monique Worrell

DeSantis Worrell
6 of 7 Justices said the Governor made enough of a case for suspension. Jorge Labarga dissented.

The Florida Supreme Court shot down suspended State Attorney Monique Worrell’s challenge to Gov. Ron DeSantis stripping her of power.

Six of seven Justices on the court said DeSantis had the right to suspend Worrell last August, and that an order doing so met requirements of the law. Worrell was first elected in 2020 as State Attorney in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, which covers Orange and Osceola counties.

“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,” a majority opinion reads.

Justices Carlos G. Muñiz, Charles Canady, John Couriel, Jamie Grosshans and Meredith Sasso all joined in a majority opinion denying Worrell’s legal challenge of the suspension. Justice Renetha Francis also agreed with the result of the decision but wrote a separate opinion raising concerns about the process of reviewing suspensions.

Only Justice Jorge Labarga disagreed with the majority, writing in a dissenting opinion that DeSantis failed to show a specific reason for suspending Worrell. He also wrote that State Attorneys must maintain prosecutorial discretion.

“In this case, I would grant Worrell’s petition for quo warranto relief because the allegations in the executive order are insufficient to provide her with sufficient notice to allow her to mount a meaningful defense,” Labarga wrote.

Worrell said she was disappointed but not surprised.

“The governor appointed most of the justices on Florida’s Supreme Court,” she said in a statement. “They took the easy way out by refusing to examine whether the governor’s claims had any factual basis. They do not, and the Court today, with the exception of the dissenting justice, rubber-stamped a political stunt.”

DeSantis suspended Worrell on the grounds she had failed to consistently enforce the law. The Governor criticized Worrell, alleging that the Democratic official was weak on crime.

An executive order specifically took her to task for seeking mandatory minimum sentences on crimes involving firearms. It noted that the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office referred 58 non-homicide robbery with a firearm cases to prosecutors in 2021 and 2022. But as of May, only one of those cases resulted in a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years.

The order also noted that the judicial circuit had one of the lowest prison admission rates in the state for robbery with a weapon, armed burglary and weapons possession.

But Worrell challenged the assertions. In a petition filed to the court in September, the suspended State Attorney argued DeSantis had failed to cite any specific behavior that would allow the Governor under state law to suspend her, such as drunkenness or committing a crime.

“The Executive Order is invalid because it fails to allege any specific conduct of Ms. Worrell that, if true, would constitute a basis for suspension on the ground of neglect of duty or incompetence,” the petition reads. “Instead, the Order wrongly attempts to infer her ‘practices and policies’ from inapposite data, but even if such practices and policies existed, they would not constitute a ground for suspension.”

But a court majority felt DeSantis’ order had any specifics that he indeed had the authority to suspend Worrell.

“We have said that a suspension order does not infringe on a state attorney’s lawful exercise of prosecutorial discretion where it alleges that such discretion is, in fact, not being exercised in individual cases but, rather, that generalized policies have resulted in categorical enforcement practices,” the majority opinion reads.

Worrell has already qualified to run for another term as State Attorney, formally launching her campaign in January. She was the only Democrat to qualify.

“There is no evidence that citizens in the Ninth Circuit have experienced a higher rate of violent crime based on my administration’s ‘practices or policies,’ and the Executive Order is notably silent on violent crime statistics,” she said.

“Those statistics show that violent crime rates are lower in the Ninth Circuit during my tenure than they have been over the past 10 years. We treated people equitably and fairly and worked to hold law enforcement accountable — which the Governor does not like. I still believe in the right of voters to choose their State Attorney, even if Florida’s politics currently do not respect this principle. When I am reelected, I will continue putting public safety and accountability above politics. I wish the governor would do the same.”

Andrew Bain, who DeSantis appointed as acting State Attorney in the circuit, qualified to run as an independent. Meanwhile, Republicans Thomas Feiter and Seth Hyman also qualified for a Republican Primary.

Opinion – Disposition by Jacob Ogles on Scribd

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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    • Lagatha

      June 6, 2024 at 4:49 pm

      Agreed. Thank you for speaking the truth out loud.

  • tom palmer

    June 6, 2024 at 7:24 pm

    So, the court can only decide whether the allegations the governor made sound plausible, but has no authority to investigate whether the allegations are actually true. That seems to be a low bar to stop political shenanigans.

  • Elvis Pitts "The Big Voice On The Right" American

    June 6, 2024 at 8:17 pm

    The Florida “Supremes” say:
    “Hell No You Gotta Go”
    Thank you Americs,

    • rick whitaker

      June 8, 2024 at 8:41 pm

      EARL PITTS / BILLY PURSER, i know that song, it’s by the one hit wonder ” the sphincter man “. i think it went to number 501 on the billboard top 500 in your time billy purser, back in the 60’s

  • Gus

    June 6, 2024 at 8:42 pm

    Laws and punishments are too soft on crime! Too many armed fellons are active in crime because the punishment is a joke. I can’t get twisted and involved in the technicalities of his dissent. I want crime to be reduced .I am not interested on rehabilitating anyone. up by the lone judge that talked mumbo jumbo in this article.

    • rick whitaker

      June 8, 2024 at 8:36 pm

      GUS, get them damn guns off the streets and then talk about crime. gun freaks are a big part of the problem you described. only an idiot would want a bunch of armed floridians running around. you’re a gun freak right? i don’t allow guns in my house ever. guns are for police officers and military.

  • Back To Slavery According To The Bible

    June 7, 2024 at 4:47 am

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      June 8, 2024 at 8:19 pm

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  • LexT

    June 7, 2024 at 9:04 am

    State Attorneys do not make the law they enforce it. When a State Attorney decides they are not going to prosecute violations of a law passed by the legislature, they need to be removed. Part of the job is enforcing laws you do not agree with. If State Attorneys disagree with a law, lobby against it, but you still need to enforce it.

    • TJC

      June 7, 2024 at 12:49 pm

      Giving mandatory minimum sentences is not a failure to enforce the law. It’s the prosecutor’s choice. Suspending a legally elected Democrat because you don’t like the choices she made is a violation of the voters’ choice, just as it was in the case of Andrew Warren.
      It is corrupt, dirty politics, the only way a nasty boy like Ronnie can play and win. If you want to suck his thumb, go right ahead. I’ll pass.

    • rick whitaker

      June 8, 2024 at 8:30 pm

      LEXT, so if the bad governor desantis wants to demand that an attorney prosecute a bunch of crimes the attorney doesn’t have the budget or time for, that’s o.k. huh? so while this attorney is doing the politically motivated cases for the governors whims, he won’t have the time and budget for the crimes he knows he needs to address for the people and circumstance that those people live under. your comment is ridiculous, and of course, partisan.

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    June 7, 2024 at 9:07 am

    Who knew the Bar’s bar was so limbo low that even Rhonda’s argument could meet it?

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Comments are closed.


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