Florida Supreme Court rules against prosecutor ousted by governor

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled against Monique H. Worrell, the elected prosecutor in the Orlando, Florida, area, in a challenge to her suspension from office by the state’s governor. (Photo by the state attorney’s office for Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit/TJMSmith, PD Florida, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled against the elected prosecutor in the Orlando, Florida, area in a challenge to her suspension from office by the state’s governor.

A June 6 per curiam opinion rejected a petition by Monique H. Worrell, who was ousted by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in an August 2023 executive order citing “neglect of duty” and “incompetence.”

The Orlando Sentinel, Florida Politics, and WESH are among the publications that covered the decision.

DeSantis’ executive order had alleged that Worrell, the state attorney for Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, instituted policies that led to fewer mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes and drug trafficking and less incarceration of juveniles.

“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 Florida Supreme Court said in its 6-1 decision.

“What is more,” the state supreme court said, “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 Florida Supreme Court said the state constitution allowed the judiciary to decide only two issues: whether the executive order stated allowable grounds for suspension and whether the allegations bear a reasonable relationship to the stated grounds.

“The executive order passes this test,” the state supreme court said.

Worrell could be reinstated by DeSantis or by the Florida Senate, which has the power to remove officials from office and to reinstate them, the state supreme court said.

In a statement cited by WESH, Worrell said the decision was “disappointing but not a surprise.”

“The governor appointed most of the justices on Florida’s Supreme Court,” Worrell said. “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.”

Worrell is campaigning for reelection.

“When I am reelected,” she said in the statement, “I will continue putting public safety and accountability above politics. I wish the governor would do the same.”

Another elected prosecutor ousted by DeSantis, Andrew Warren, is also seeking reelection, according to the Florida Phoenix. Warren was the Hillsborough County, Florida, state attorney.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled against him, but his federal lawsuit is pending.

Hat tip to Bloomberg Law.

See also:

Politics are at play in states seeking to rein in ‘progressive’ prosecutors

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